Josh Nowak: Another perspective on broadband plan
April 5, 2016
As many of you in the community know, the city, the county and some key stakeholders have been actively planning for better broadband in our region. Neo Fiber out of Glenwood Springs was recently engaged to produce a strategic broadband plan for Routt County. You can view Neo Fiber's plan at the following link: http://www.zirkel.us/docs/RCSBP.pdf.
The plan calls for the county to leverage grant money to build fiber routes across Routt County in an effort to connect 132 "anchor institutions." The projected cost is nearly $12 million of taxpayer money.
The plan assumes that once these fiber assets are in place, last mile providers (like ZIRKEL) could provide service from those "anchor institutions" out to the nearby residents. It is interesting to note that a majority of these locations and the surrounding residents already have internet access, and most of them have faster plans available to them today.
We understand that broadband investments are good for our county long-term, and we
wholeheartedly support efforts to expand our community's broadband infrastructure. But we feel that Neo Fiber's plan misses the mark on some important levels because it does not speak to solving the immediate broadband crisis — the large number of underserved and completely unserved areas in Routt County.
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Furthermore, the broadband plan does not prioritize Routt County's true middle-mile problem of obtaining a diverse fiber path into Routt County.
Our community continues to suffer from fiber optic outages when the only viable path gets cut between Silverthorne, Kremmling and Steamboat. There were multiple fiber optic cuts relating to the Kremmling road construction this past summer. These cuts caused extensive telecommunication outages for our county.
We feel that there should be a plan that prioritizes extending basic broadband to unserved corners of the county like Toponas and North Routt. The irony is that there are very simple, common-sense solutions that are already on hand. These solutions would cost only a fraction of the proposed fiber build-out.
One example is the existing forest service tower on Farwell Mountain in North Routt.
Currently, private providers are not able to install equipment on the tower due to a classification by the U.S. Forest service. Current estimates to have the tower reclassified are approximately three years.
With coordinated public and private efforts, we believe more can be done at the county, state and federal levels to implement common-sense broadband solutions.
Routt County is an amazing place to live — for people in all stages of life. As an Internet Service Provider, we often see home purchases contingent on their ability to get fast, reliable internet service. We have known for years that broadband is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity in today's world.
Most of our county is rural, and our rural neighbors matter. We do not think it is acceptable for our rural residents to wait another five to 10 years for our community to prioritize basic broadband access for all homes within the county.
I will close by saying that the broadband plan is nothing more than a template for Routt County to follow. Just because our county has been given this plan, does not mean that they will implement every recommendation.
As citizens of Routt County, it is up to you to let our decision-makers know what you
think. And as Northwest Colorado locals, it is our responsibility to find ways to work together and triumph. We can (and will) figure this out, but it will require every "brain in the game." Let's get to work!
Questions or feedback? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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