Broadband committee reps meet

RBC I High-level federal representatives from the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) attended a broadband committee meeting Jan. 18 in Craig, according to Northwest Colorado Telecommunications Committee broadband chair Audrey Danner. Also at the meeting were staff from the offices of Colorado senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, Colorado State Representative Scott Tipton, as well as Governor Hickenlooper’s Office of Information Technology Director Brian Shepherd. Local representatives included Blake Mobley, IT director for the Meeker School District; Meeker attorney Joe Fennessy, and Bob Amick of the Meeker Economic Development Committee’s Broadband Task Force. Other representatives included Moffat County Commissioner’s office, Moffat County School District, Steamboat Springs, Grand County, fiber optic provider companies and others.
The primary topic of discussion was the Eagle NET broadband fiber optic cable network being installed throughout northwest Colorado. The network is designed primarily to serve school districts. The project has been temporarily suspended until certain federal impact studies are completed having to do with historical districts and other areas under federal jurisdiction. It is anticipated that these impediments will be resolved shortly and permit continued construction and installation in the near future. Eagle NET is operating under an NTIA grant program for infrastructure development to bring broadband to rural areas. These areas may not be widely supported by private vendors due to sparse populations and remote locations where it may not be financially feasible for support by commercial providers. It may be possible to co-locate in a neutral carrier location which would include Eagle NET fiber to benefit the communities and sustain Eagle NET.
Northwest Colorado Council of Governments has applied for a grant to facilitate expansion of broadband facilities in Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Grand, Garfield, Pitkin, Jackson and other adjacent counties. The grant is pending final review. A broadband consultant has been engaged to design and facilitate the project.
Federal representatives and state officials were fully supportive of the northwest Colorado project and will offer resources to help facilitate and expedite the broadband fiber optic network, bringing network availability to the area as rapidly as possible. Because Rio Blanco County and Strata networks already have fiber installed from Rifle to Meeker and from Vernal, Utah, to Rangely, Meeker and finally terminating in Craig, it will be much more feasible to connect to broadband networks.
The remaining challenge is the “last mile,” in which roadband must be distributed via fiber optic cable that must be locally installed throughout Meeker, Rangely and some rural areas to individual households, government facilities and businesses. The communities should consider options for acquiring and offering local distribution of broadband services. Consultants have been contacted to offer guidance on various options for last mile local distribution approaches. The broadband task force will offer public meetings to hear presentations on various options available and to develop a comprehensive plan.