County agrees on plan to finish broadband project

By Niki Turner
RBC | Following news that Colorado Fiber Community (CFC), the company contracted to install broadband infrastructure had run out of money and new connections would slow to a crawl, Rio Blanco County Commissioners met to find a way to finish the project.
Commissioner Shawn Bolton said the county will continue to carry the $1,160 average cost for each “drop run” from the fiber line to individual addresses.
“If your drop run goes over that, you’ll have to pay the additional cost,” Bolton said.
RBC IT Director Blake Mobley said there are probably only a few drops that would cost more than the average.
With winter weather approaching, the broadband contractors will bring in additional crews to hopefully complete the remaining drops in the next six weeks in an “accelerated drop mobilization” plan. There are about 200 customers in Rangely waiting for a connection, and about 500 in Meeker. Some addresses in Meeker will receive a temporary “surface line” connection that will be replaced in the spring with a buried line.
“We’re targeting 700 drops in six weeks,” Mobley said. “Weather and utility locates will impact that.”
Mobley said the county fulfilled their original responsibility to the project in May, but the rate of new subscribers has increased dramatically, necessitating additional funding.
“We estimated a 40 percent take rate at the beginning of this project,” Mobley said. “Colorado Fiber Community is anticipating the final take rate will end up between 75 and 80 percent when it’s all done.”
From a budgetary standpoint, the county is in revamping the contract with Colorado Fiber Connections to allow CFC to continue moving forward with the project.
“We’ll go into reserves and then put it back in the next budget session,” said Commissioner Si Woodruff.
As of press time Wednesday, the commissioners unanimously agreed to move forward.
“This is going to work our service providers’ tails off,” Bolton said. “Nobody had a crystal ball to foresee this kind of success.”