County celebrates success of broadband initiative

Niki Turner photo More than 50 people representing various town, county and state departments involved in some way with the broadband project attended a celebratory gathering Tuesday at the Fairfield Center in Meeker.

RBC | The county threw a party Tuesday to celebrate the success of the broadband initiative. Rio Blanco County Internet Technology Director Blake Mobley was quick to point out that the project is not complete.
None of the commissioners who threw their weight behind the project have internet service at their homes yet. Neither does Mobley. They’re awaiting the arrival of spring, like many others, for fiber connections or the wireless towers to be completed.
“I think these three gentlemen have been excellent stewards of public funds,” Mobley said of the current board of county commissioners: Jon Hill, Jeff Eskelson and Shawn Bolton. “Even though they drove this project, they don’t have it (broadband) yet. They have been great visionaries and provided great leadership.”
Rio Blanco County has good reason to pat itself on the back.
“We are the fastest internet county in Colorado, to my knowledge,” Mobley said, and “one of the fastest in the nation.”
Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) representative Chantal Unfug described the project as “a milestone, not just for you, but for us and for the whole state. We’ve been impressed with the way you’ve handled this. You are really lighting up the community and everyone is watching you.” DOLA provided significant grant funding to subsidize the project.
Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn Bolton praised Mobley’s work.
“We hired Blake (Mobley) mid-2014. We gave him two months to come up with a plan and he did it.”
The plan required a mill levy override, which 80 percent of voters in the county approved.
“This will be the biggest economic driver that’s ever hit this county,” Bolton said.
Meredith Marshall from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade also had praise for Mobley, saying, “I’ve been bragging about him all across the state.”
Marshall shared some of the results of a “resiliency study” performed by their office to examine why some communities are thriving and others are not. She cited the broadband project as an investment that will pay off for the county through industry diversification.
“The more varied you are the stronger you will be. Broadband does this for you. It strengthens existing businesses and attracts new ones,” Marshall said.
Pursuing economic development through broadband access will continue through the state’s Blueprint 2.0 initiative, a grant awarded to the county to further pursue industry diversification.