Thursday, October 4, 2018

Trailblazing Southwest Colorado

Today's blog comes from Anthony (Tony) Neal-Graves, the executive director of the Colorado Broadband Office. Tony is responsible for driving the state’s broadband strategy and utilizing public and private sector relationships in communities across the state to support broadband expansion.

Did you know that some of the most beautiful stands of aspen trees can be seen in southwest Colorado as they turn in September?

As part of our goal within the Broadband Office to engage, encourage, and support local communities in their efforts to ensure residents and businesses have access to high speed broadband, I spent several days in the area hosted by Miriam Gillow-Wiles of the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments (SWCCOG). In many ways southwest Colorado is an original trailblazer in the development of broadband infrastructure through the Southwest Colorado Access Network (SCAN) project. In 2011, middle mile infrastructure was deployed with funding from DOLA to connect anchor institutions across all counties within the COG. As a result, the school districts, county, and municipal facilities have high quality access.

I visited Pagosa Springs to meet with town and the county administrator. They are working together along with neighboring Hindsdale County to finalize a broadband strategic plan in the next month. This was my second time in Pagosa Springs and it is great to see the steady progress. I also met with stakeholders in Durango, Silverton, and Cortez as well as officials from La Plata, Montezuma, and San Juan Counties. It is exciting to see the engagement across all these communities to solve their infrastructure needs with the support from the private sector and state government.

One of the highlights was my stop at Osprey, a global supplier of backpacks headquartered in Cortez. During my visit, it is clear that Osprey could not maintain its presence in Cortez without the access that they have to
reliable broadband services. It is also clear that there is a strong collaboration between Osprey and the city of Cortez to provide reliable services as well as recruit other businesses to the town.

Every community understands the need for high quality broadband and the impact it has on all aspects of life from education, to healthcare, to public safety, to economic development.  The strong commitment to bring high-speed broadband to towns throughout Colorado makes my job one of the best!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Do You Know Who Has Seen Your Data Today?

Social networks are all about sharing. But before the news broke about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, we may not have thought much about the fact that it’s not just friends and family seeing our posts. We now know that what we click on, what we share and what we like is being used by people we don’t consider our friends.

Regardless of the ultimate implications for using Facebook and other social platforms, it’s important that users of social media understand what information they are sharing when they allow access to their social media profiles or log in to other apps using those credentials. While it is very convenient to log in to an app with your Facebook or Twitter profile, this can lead to you sharing more information than you might realize. In most cases it is only your email address and social media profile that is shared, but you could also be unwittingly disclosing the types of posts you like, location data and even information about your friends on the social media platform. As we’re seeing in the Cambridge Analytica story, this data can be used to present you with information that is designed to influence your opinion on a wide range of issues.

If you use social media platforms, you won’t be able to stop third parties from getting their hands on your data. But there are ways you can limit the amount of data that can be mined from those accounts.


Review your connected apps section of Facebook settings to see which apps are accessing your social media profile. Click on “Settings” and then “Apps and Websites”. Check the “Active” and “Expired” sections and remove the apps you know longer want to share your data with.  


On Twitter, click on your profile and then go into “Accounts and Privacy”, then click on the “Apps” tab. Review the permissions for each app and determine if you’re comfortable with the data you are sharing. 

Some other things you might want to consider:

  • Weigh whether the convenience of your login experience is more important than the information you’ll be sharing with the creator of an application.
  • Consider what you’re sharing online before you do it. As fun as it is for all of your Facebook friends to wish you a happy birthday, remember that date of birth is a method of authentication when you need access to something, such as your online bank account.
  • Be wary of taking every quiz and entering every contest that comes your way on social media or other internet websites. Many of these quizzes ask questions that are also used to authenticate you to various websites if you forget your password.
  • Turn off cookies (browsing data) on your browser.
  • Read what information the app will take when you download it!
  • Delete old social media accounts that you no longer use.
  • Install a tracker blocker. These are add-ons you can install within your browser. In some cases they may result in a website not working properly.
  • Install an add blocker. This is another add-on that can be installed on your browser.
  • Take the time to research ways to enhance the privacy settings across your social media accounts.
Using social platforms to connect with friends, family and for professional networking likely won’t go away anytime soon. If you’re going to use these platforms you should expect that the information you include is public, so don’t reveal anything you would not want publicly known. But if you take the time to review your accounts and make sure permissions are set the way you want them, you’ll be going a long way towards controlling your own data and only sharing what you want.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Remote Colorado Counties Rally for Broadband Coverage

Today's blog comes from Anthony (Tony) Neal-Graves, the executive director of the Colorado Broadband Office. Tony is responsible for driving the state’s broadband strategy and utilizing public and private sector relationships in communities across the state to support broadband expansion.

Pagosa Springs, Colorado
A wonderful benefit of my job is travelling around the state to work with local communities. Hinsdale and Archuleta counties presented one of those great opportunities. On my way to visit Pagosa Springs and Lake City, I saw some of the most beautiful scenery in the state. On the drive between the towns I passed a sheep farmer in Mineral County, with his five sheep dogs, herding an entire flock down the middle of the road. How many places are you going to get to see sheepherding? Hinsdale County is one of the most remote counties in Colorado and the United States; it is the least densely populated county in Colorado and is mostly (97%) made up of public land.

These remote counties have the same need for broadband access as any other community in the state. The wilderness and national forests attract large populations every year to enjoy the outdoor experience through camping, hunting, and fishing. Each year the expectation to be connected while experiencing nature continues to grow. Access for public safety services in critically important. Finally, these communities want to attract businesses and robust, high-speed, internet access is a must-have.

Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County are partnering with southern Hinsdale County to develop a strategic plan for ubiquitous broadband within the region. Archuleta County also participates in the Southwest Colorado Access Network (SCAN) project, a regional broadband plan for the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments (SWCCOG). Hinsdale County is active in Region 10 and the planning/development efforts led by that organization. Hinsdale needs to hold a SB152 election in order to be able to move from planning to execution for the county.

Bringing high-speed broadband to this region will enhance the tourist experience of this picturesque area of the state. More importantly, it will be a catalyst for sustainable economic development.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Northwest Colorado is Getting Across the Divide

Today's blog comes from Anthony (Tony) Neal-Graves, the executive director of the Colorado Broadband Office. Tony is responsible for driving the state’s broadband strategy and utilizing public and private sector relationships in communities across the state to support broadband expansion.

I took a four day, whirl-wind tour of the northwest corner of the state hosted by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG). I visited 9 counties and 5 towns meeting with the local leadership to gain insight and provide support to the planning and projects they have underway to solve rural broadband access. Each municipality and county is at a different point on the continuum of broadband development but what is common among all is the passion and focus to bring high quality, affordable broadband to the citizens in their community. It is viewed as key to being able to participate in the state, national, and global economy in this century.

While every meeting was invaluable in providing insight to the solutions that are required in each community, two stops stood out in my mind as unique: Meeker in Rio Blanco county and Red Cliff in Eagle county. By now most are aware of the success of the public-private partnership in Rio Blanco County led by Blake Mobley, IT Director. Through a combination of fiber and fixed wireless, the county will provide broadband performance that would challenge the services in any place in the US. More significantly, the county has built the infrastructure with forethought to be prepared for future needs of the community.

Red Cliff, a former mining community in Eagle County with a population of 390, has endured years of no internet service beyond a single T-1 line at 1.5Mbps; in other words, no internet. This fall, the entire community will have access to high quality internet for the first time as result of a public-private partnership. Mayor Anuschka Bales has been a leader in driving the project and we all look forward to celebrating Red Cliff jumping across the digital divide!

These two projects were made possible through the collaboration between local governments, the Department of Local Affairs, the Department of Regulatory Agencies, and the private sector. It is proof of what partnerships can achieve.