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.