Broadband: NW Colo. technology team looks to future

RBC I The Northwest Colorado Broadband Local Technology planning team met Jan. 15 in Craig. The team is chaired by retired Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner. Representatives of a number of broadband fiber optic cable private sector service providers were present along with local government representatives, telecommunications consultants, information technology directors and community-based broadband coalition representatives.
A lengthy discussion was held about determining where fiber optic cable is located and distributed and what organizations have fiber that is operational (“lit up”) versus dark (installed but not active). An effort is being made to identify and map all installed fiber owned by private and public entities so that a complete inventory of available telecommunications pathways can be provided.
Representatives of the Governor’s Office of Information Technology were present to explain the coordinating function of their organization which serves as a liaison to all stakeholders in broadband from providers to consumers. There is a national broadband coordinating organization that is seeking to structure and develop the broadband mission uniformly so that there is consistency and uniformity in a standards-based technology and development plan.
The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments representative was present to explain a state gr­ant request on behalf of Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco and several adjoining counties which will serve to enhance the broadband administration and infrastructure to benefit all residents of those counties.
A new opportunity exists where utility companies such as power and communications can cooperatively provide for fiber and right of way resources along existing power lines to bury fiber and serve as a distribution pathway even for all such residential and business facilities, even in isolated rural areas. This is beneficial as utility poles and lines are present to just about all local and rural residences and businesses.
Duplication of resources has been an issue which sometimes results in overbuilding or duplication of networks where multiple providers are serving the same geographic and demographic areas. Competition in the case of broadband providers may not be cost-effective or productive if not coordinated to avoid such duplication. Effective alternatives are proposed to attempt to consolidate or to coordinate multiple backbone networks to provide redundancy or “failsafe” alternative pathways which would overcome interruptions due to specific cable cuts or technology failures that would ordinarily interrupt service to consumers.
Among the important issues discussed was the need to provide a professionally produced educational video, as well as public service announcements on broadcast media, printed media, Internet and social media. These efforts should be directed widely to consumers who may have little knowledge or background on what a strong broadband resource can provide for the economic development of a community. Moreover, the benefits for government, schools, health care, public safety, businesses, senior citizens, children and all consumers are astronomical in scope.
Representing Rio Blanco County were Blake Mobley, Internet technology director for Meeker Re-1 School District, and Joe Fennessy and Bob Amick, representing the Meeker Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Broadband Coalition task force.