Broadband service in Garfield County
County looks to cut through broadband red tapeGarfield County has sent a letter to Colorado Governor Jared Polis requesting assistance in navigating the roadblocks to access state-owned fiber lines to bring broadband service more quickly to western Colorado.
County secures $1.7 million DOLA grant for broadbandGarfield County has secured a more than $1.7 million grant from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) to help complete phase II of its middle mile broadband project.
Affordable Connectivity Program helps families attain internet serviceThe Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) provides eligible households with discounted broadband service and needed devices. Through ACP, families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines can receive up to $30 per month discount on internet service and $100 discount for the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. Households on tribal lands can receive up to $75 discount on monthly internet service.
County partnership aims to further broadband goalsGarfield County is engaging in a partnership to help expand broadband access in the region through connections with existing fiber lines along Interstate 70. The county, which is partnering with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the nonprofit Region 10, has submitted a request to the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) to reallocate previously awarded grant funding away from proposed wireless infrastructure and toward an expanded middle-mile network system, including “meet-me” centers.
Middle-mile network implementation moves forwardGarfield County has agreed to a contract with Vero Fiber Networks, LLC, to build middle-mile and carrier-neutral locations to bolster broadband service in the region.
Vero Fiber contract
Broadband strategy advancesA strategy to improve broadband services for residents in Garfield County is moving forward, with an immediate focus on service in more remote areas.
Community engagement yields broadband input
Many residents and businesses see a more accessible and reliable broadband infrastructure as a benefit to the local economy, according to community input collected in a recent study by Garfield County. This information was gathered prior to November's election, when citizens will vote on a ballot question that will determine Garfield County's ability to participate in the development of broadband in the future.Under current state law, local governments cannot build telecommunications or broadband Internet infrastructure for public use. Local governments under the current state law, are also prohibited from entering into partnerships with service providers to help solve broadband challenges. Garfield County voters will decide in November whether or not to opt-out of the current state law, Senate Bill 05-152. Opting out of this law would allow Garfield County to consider participating in telecommunications and Internet infrastructure, and partner with the private sector to help facilitate better Internet broadband services.
Community engagement meetings were held in June by NEO Connect, a private consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning, design, and construction management of wireless and fiber optic networks.
As part of the Broadband Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan study, two online surveys also collected 228 responses from residents, and 58 from businesses in both Garfield and Mesa counties. The surveys found that nearly half of households have one or two people working online from home. The majority of residents noted that they would like to see counties take part in improving accessibility and reliability of service, if private providers fail to do so.
Garfield County survey results
In Garfield County, both the general public and industry took part in meetings to discuss the current infrastructure and level of services, as well as local business needs, and overall expectations for the future of broadband.
The topics included availability and reliability of current services; challenges and opportunities for local businesses; potential public-private partnerships to help develop a broadband system; funding channels for government entities; and potential growth in coming years.
In meetings with industry in Glenwood Springs and Rifle, the economic benefits of an improved broadband system were touted as a way to attract new businesses to the area. Attendees noted that a deficient broadband system is detrimental to the educational aspirations of residents, and has a negative economic impact "by creating an ill-prepared workforce."
During public meetings in Carbondale and New Castle, attendees bemoaned a lack of residential service options in more rural areas. Many residents also questioned the reliability of their service, as well as the lack of redundant lines in the case of an outage, and the potential impacts of such to contacting emergency services.
The speed of the internet service and its price were also crucial factors for residents of both counties. The Federal Communications Commission redefined broadband speed in 2015 as 25 megabits per second (mbps) for download speed, up from the past standard of 4 mbps. In the residential survey, 60 percent of respondents found their service below the new broadband standard.
Upload speed was also increased from 1 mbps to 3 mbps under the FCC's new definition of broadband. In the same survey, 49 percent relayed that their service did not meet that standard.
Nearly 90 percent of survey respondents replied that they would pay $50 a month for reliable service; 72 percent would pay $65 each month; and 47 percent would pay $75 a month.