County’s broadband project to begin soon

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RBC I Within the next year, Rio Blanco County will begin construction on its prepared plans to greatly increase communication capabilities countywide through the installation of broadband Internet and potential cell phone services.

“We’ve got to have communication ability to entice any new companies into the county,” said Rio Blanco County Commissioner Jon Hill.
The county has hired Colorado.Fiber.Community to act as the network operator for the new fiber optic lines being installed throughout the county. If the final bid processes run smoothly, they could begin work on the fiber optic lines, which will provide broadband Internet service as early as mid-July.
The plan entails running fiber optic lines up and down every street in Meeker and Rangely.
In Rangely, the lines will head west out of town ending at the Chevron office.
In Meeker, the lines will run as far north as County Road 15, or Thornburgh Road, servicing a commercial and industrial area.
Once the lines are installed, work will begin on three large towers around the county, located on Lobo Mountain in Meeker, an undetermined location in Piceance Creek and an undetermined location in the Rangely area. The towers will serve any combination of three purposes: cell phone coverage, emergency radio signals and microwave Internet.
The towers set up to service cell phone coverage will be made available for lease by any private company. However, the commissioners have set one rule. Whatever company decides to put in cell coverage must use a program that is compatible with all major carriers, with the exception of T-Mobile.
Hill said this exception is because T-Mobile has refused to make themselves compatible with the other carriers.
Some of the towers will be set up to connect to what is termed 800DTR, a radio frequency used only by emergency services and law enforcement.
The last of the three tower capabilities, microwave, will further the Internet signal. The fiber optic lines will run to the three large towers, which will be equipped to send out the signal wirelessly to buildings or homes with designated receiver boxes.
For the even more rural areas of the county that cannot be serviced by the signals from the large towers, the county will be purchasing what they term “small towers,” which will be placed in numerous locations to help boost the signal out to homes as well as oil and gas developments.
The estimated gross cost for the ambitious project sits at $12 million. The commissioners expect to bring in several grants to help offset that cost, including a $2 million grant they were recently awarded.
So far, the commissioners have seen fairly high interest from private companies that would like to tap into the fiber lines and provide Internet service, however Colorado.Fiber.- Community, the network operator, will be the one to determine which companies are allowed in.
Hill said this is to ensure that the service is high quality.
“These lines are capable of servicing a much larger demand than what currently exists,” he said. “We don’t want companies that are going to slow it down.”
Hill said he expects that 80 percent of the county will be covered by November.