Work already starting on broadband in Rio Blanco County

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RBC I With the adoption of Broadband Initiative 1A on Nov. 4 by Rio Blanco County voters, the Broadband Task Force headed by Rio Blanco County Information Technology Director Blake Mobley has moved swiftly to implement the various complex components and systems required to bring affordable, abundant and redundant high speed digital telecommunications services to county residents, organizations and visitors.

At a recent commissioner’s hearing, Mobley reported the progress of the players to bring wireless 3G and ultimately 4G data services to wireless subscribers throughout the county, and he outlined a timeline of project milestones envisioned by the project team.
An early phase of the project will be the construction of suitable antenna towers in the west and east ends of the county to serve Rangely and Meeker and the surrounding rural areas, including isolated areas. Such towers will serve as the anchor point for distributed antenna systems (DAS) that provide wide-area WiFi telecommunications capability for digital devices such as PC’s, smartphones, television, et al.
Towers will be served by ultra-high-speed fiber optic cable and microwave radio links to transmit and receive “middle mile” and “last mile” digital data services from primary internet service providers and wireless carriers.
The ultimate goal will be to ensure that all residents, organizations and visitors to the county have pervasively available services similar to those they would expect to receive in larger urban areas.
The Rio Blanco County Broadband Project synopsis was provided by Mobley.
Rio Blanco County has made large strides in its efforts to bring it citizens and business owners modern broadband services. In June, the county established a plan called “Rio Blanco County—A Modern, World Class Destination, The Big RBC IT Infrastructure and Services Plan.” The plan covers bringing modern broadband (Internet), cellular service,and emergency service (ES) to the county. The vision statement reads:
Rio Blanco County (RBC) will implement and maintain IT infrastructure and services resulting in RBC positioning itself as a modern, world class destination for: tourism; business growth; safe, healthy, happy living; and as an ideal place to raise, educate, and retain a family.
This will be accomplished by implementing a Fiber to the Home (FTTH) solution in Meeker and Rangely and a licensed high bandwidth fixed wireless backhaul system across a countywide tower network for the delivery of modern high-speed broadband, cellular and emergency services (ES) within the next three years.
Rio Blanco County joined six other Colorado communities in passing an override to Senate Bill 05-152, allowing the county to supply broadband services to its citizens and businesses. Every such SB05-152 override in Colorado this fall passed with large margins, all well over 70 percent, and this news made the Washington Post.
The county is currently searching for private industry partners to help realize the services laid out in the vision statement and plan. Several request for proposals (RFP) have been released to establish these public/private partnerships. At the moment, there is an RFP out for the wireless engineering and the RFP for the Meeker and Rangely municipal fiber optics.
Current plans and momentum should result in fiber to the home (FTTH) and fiber to the business (FTTB) construction to begin as early as late spring 2015, in Meeker and Rangely, ultimately providing inexpensive, high speed internet, phone service and, possibly, even TV service.
Also in spring of 2015, the countywide broadband project should begin to expand broadband (Internet), phone service and improved cellular choices out to the rural parts of our county. The high speed offering for rural residents should be in the 25×5 range, which means 25 Mbps download speeds and 5 Mbps upload speeds, with no data cap (in other words, unlimited data usage each month). This will enable a home to support several Netflix sessions along with phone conversations and a modern computer or console streaming game while others in the house are performing work or homework activities, all at the same time. This will be an unprecedented level of service for many of our homes and businesses.
Final Internet speeds, services and final prices will be made available to the public as soon as the county and private partners are able to determine this information. The goal is to attempt to reach price points and service similar to the gold standard for FTTH set in the US by Google, which is 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps) of service at a $70 per month cost as the top tier offering with other more-affordable tiers available.
This is a very lofty goal for a rural county like Rio Blanco, with low population density and complex topology, and may not be obtainable, members of the task force agreed. But the commissioners, county IT department and the private partners are giving their best effort to attain the goal.
Following is a list of recent and future broadband milestones: Nov. 14—Tower Loading Study for Marvine, Pollard, Cathedral started; Nov. 15—Tower/ Wireless Engineering RFP released; Nov. 16—Magnolia Tower Shed, roof replacement; Nov. 17—FTTx Engineering RFP opening by BOCC in Rangely; Dec. 1—DOLA Tier II application to be submitted; Dec. 1—FTTx Engineering will commence, taking roughly 90 days; early December—Tower/Wireless Engineering will commence, taking roughly 90 days; other key RFP/RFIs.