Broadband project still on track, but winter weather will delay new connections

courtesy photo Inside the splicing trailer. Chris Fuller of Lite Industries, a subcontractor for the project, is in the foreground. Splicing work is expected to continue through the winter as weather permits.

RBC | “All the mainline conduit and fiber is now placed,” said Rio Blanco County IT Director Blake Mobley about the county’s broadband internet installation. That’s 25 miles of conduit and fiber jetting completed in Rangely and an additional 25 miles in Meeker. The last stage is to finish splicing, or fusing, all the fiber connections.
“It’s like laying a bunch of pipe and then going back to connect the pieces,” Mobley explained. Only these fiber optic “pipes” are made from glass just about the size of a single human hair. Each individual fiber at each connection must be fused to an adjoining piece with the use of a specialized splicing tool.
“If the weather doesn’t get bad, they intend to continue to work throughout the winter,” Mobley said of the contractor handling the fusing process.
What does all that mean for internet-hungry residents eager to say goodbye to bandwidth caps and endless buffering?
If the “drop” line hasn’t already been put into your home or business, it means you’re going to be waiting until spring to enjoy the new system. Snow on the ground hides utility locates, and muddy or frozen ground can permit water to get in the conduit for the fiber, causing multiple problems.
Between the two towns, about 40 percent of the project is ready to “light.” The other 60 percent is waiting for fusing. There are 131 customers currently using the fiber optic system.
“Of the 40 percent, we already have more than 600 additional connection requests in,” Mobley said, which are waiting on their “drop runs” from the mainline, which will come as soon as weather permits. Then those 600 will start connecting, and the other 60 percent of the project will become eligible for drops.
Community response to the broadband initiative has been excellent. Mobley said in similar projects around the country the average “take rate”—the number of customers signing up for service—is about 35 percent.
“We’re right about double the national average for an overbuild project like this, where some kind of service is already available in an area.”
The wireless component of the project, which involves eight towers scattered throughout the county, will be ready to light as soon as weather permits in the spring.
“Some of those towers you can’t get to until the end of June,” Mobley said, due to snow. The first two wireless towers that will be lit are the ones at CNCC in Rangely and on Lobo Mountain in Meeker.
Videos about how optical fiber is made and how it works are available on the county’s website at www.rbc.us/395/Broadband.

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