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RBC I Years of talk, months of planning and grant acquisition are over. As of Monday, Circle H Construction, Inc. out of Nampa, Idaho, will begin construction of the broadband infrastructure in Meeker and Rangely.
The construction will be simultaneous in both communities with initial work crews of 10 to 15, a construction foreman and quality control will be managed by an engineering inspector stationed in Meeker and Rangely.
Rio Blanco County IT Director Blake Mobley and a representative of the county’s contracted network operator, Colorado.Fiber.Community, LLC (CFC), will coordinate communications and oversee the project.
Next week, when you see construction workers with rolls of conduit in the alleys and along the streets of Meeker and Rangely, likely redirecting traffic at times, you will know that high speed Internet is on its way.
Circle H’s agreement with Rio Blanco County has set Dec. 11 as the earliest possible end of construction. However, this agreement allows deadline extension requests for such things as weather conditions.
Rio Blanco County’s Network Operator, CFC, will be working in conjunction with local Value Added Resellers (VARs), who will be supplying services with early-customer signup starting this fall. CFC and the VARs may be able to begin service for certain public, business and residential customers prior to the end of construction.
This is a complex process with many moving parts, Mobley said, so time and the process will determine to what degree early service delivery is allowed. Either way, by late spring 2016, any customer near the infrastructure, which is most of Meeker and Rangely, should be able to acquire service.
The actual in-town, Meeker and Rangely infrastructure, he said, will be fiber-optic cable buried in conduit, which will run down most alleys in the two communities as well as some streets where alleys don’t exist or are difficult to utilize.
For the hard-core techies, the fiber-optic glass will be lit with modern GPON technology connecting customer premises back to the Colocation Data Centers (Co-Lo) in Meeker and Rangely. Meeker’s Co-Lo will be housed at the courthouse while Rangely’s Co-Lo will be located in the old Kum & Go building.
Broadband is the term that the FCC and others use when talking about modern, high-speed Internet and related services. The FCC defines broadband, as of 2015, as 25 mbps by 3 mbps (25 megabits per second download speed and 3 megabits per second upload speed).
Rio Blanco County’s broadband project in Meeker and Rangely will be able to deliver modern, world-class speeds ranging up to 1,000 mbps, which techies call 1 gigabit. This is the same world class speed that Google Fiber has created in a few U.S. cities such as Kansas City, Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas, and Meeker and Rangely are about to be added to the list of such “Gigabit Cities.” This outstanding claim is thanks to many people and organizations including the following:
1. The community, for requesting modern Internet services to help support business, home access and our Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) such as schools, hospitals, towns, etc.
2. County Commissioners Jeff Eskelson, Shawn Bolton and Jon Hill for listening to the community and acting on the identified need.
3. The Rio Blanco County IT Department for working diligently to turn the vision into reality.
4. Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) for awarding Rio Blanco County a $2,000,000 matching grant for this stage of the project. Rio Blanco County was one of the first two awardees in the entire state to access the set-aside broadband funds.
5. Rio Blanco County’s many local partners who have been instrumental throughout the project. Partners include the towns of Meeker and Rangely, the recreation districts, White River Electric Association and all the other utility partners and public works employees who will be helping to accommodate the conduit and infrastructure implementation.
6. Rio Blanco County’s contracted private partners such as Mid States Consultants for their fiber optic engineering, Circle H Construction for building the infrastructure, and Colorado.Fiber.Community for managing and maintaining the infrastructure.
7. And finally, the future VARs who will be contacting customers and providing service across the infrastructure.
CFC, the network operator, is planning on providing Internet, TV and phone services as a wholesaler to the VARs. VARs may then choose which end-customer services they wish to sell, deliver, and support. IPTV is a service very similar to cable TV. The type of VOIP provided will be a service very similar to traditional phone lines and users can continue to use old phones with this service.
All three services and all future service offerings will be delivered across the same strand of fiber optic cable as the Internet.
Final pricing and speeds will ultimately be determined by the VARs. However, the Network Operator, CFC and Rio Blanco County have targeted speeds in the 25 mbps, 100 mbps and 1,000 mbps (1 gig) speeds as public and business offerings. These two partners are also working toward the price point set by Google Fiber which is $70 per month for the 1 gig residential service speed and of course, less for the other speeds.
“It is still being determined how close to this number we can get,” Mobley said. “Many small rural communities similar to Meeker and Rangely, have 1 gig price points ranging from $120 to a bit over $300. We will work hard and do our best to bring the prices closer to the Google Fiber range, if we possibly can.”
Prices for IPTV and VOIP have not been determined at this time as CFC and the VARs will need to first agree on offerings and price points.
Rio Blanco County was just awarded a Colorado Department of Local Affairs matching grant for $1,669,458 to build out of a tower network to serve the rural businesses and residences of the county. The engineering of the towers and wireless solution, completed by Centerline Solutions, is near completion.
Stage 1 construction is projected to begin spring of 2016 as soon as weather and ground conditions permit, Mobley said. The initial tower locations will provide about 70 percent of rural addresses with a service option.
“It is the county’s current goal, should leadership and funding permit, to reach nearly 100 percent rural coverage of addresses within three years,” Mobley said. “For transparency, this is a very challenging and lofty goal. But the county leadership, IT Department and the many broadband partners believe it is obtainable if current momentum persists.
The rural tower and wireless solution includes tower and equipment planning and space to facilitate enhanced emergency services communication for current and future solutions.
Like emergency services, the tower and equipment planning has also provided infrastructure that enables the county’s network operator, CFC, to facilitate business arrangements resulting in enhanced cell phone coverage.