County partnership aims to further broadband goals

Expanded ‘meet-me’ locations planned for Glenwood Springs and Rifle

June 17, 2021

Garfield 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.

The first phase of work aims to expand the meet-me centers, also known as colocation data facilities, along the interstate corridor to help connect broadband providers to existing fiber lines and bolster the middle-mile infrastructure in Rifle and Glenwood Springs. The request to DOLA also revises the prior scope of work and includes a time extension to complete the project, which is estimated to cost $1,131,432 for phase 1.

The estimated cost includes building fiber from CDOT’s access points in Rifle and Glenwood Springs to the respective meet-me centers, plus equipment and racking ($150,000) for the colocation facilities and associated improvement expenses ($133,301).

Montrose-based Region 10 leverages resources to help provide affordable, high speed Internet service to Western Slope communities in Delta, Montrose, Ouray and Gunnison counties. A more robust middle-mile network allows access to the fiber-optic lines, connecting with anchor institutions in the area, as well as opportunities for public and private broadband partnerships to bolster local service in the future.

“That’s why we’re proposing these colocation facilities,” Garfield County Manager Kevin Batchelder told the Board of County Commissioners. “We can create partnerships to enhance service and broadband expansion in Garfield County.”

Through prior work with Pitkin and Eagle counties on a regional broadband authority, Garfield County found that providing wireless services to remote areas of the county is neither sustainable nor financially feasible, hence the change in direction on the project.

“The technology was unreliable and would only last for a short period of time,” Batchelder said. “The broadband market has evolved and there is a lot more private competition than when we began a few years ago.”

Having a strong middle mile infrastructure in place could attract new investors, and private broadband providers may then offer wireless services to more remote areas of the county in the future, he added.

In phases 2 and 3 of the project, the county is seeking partners that may be interested in providing “last mile” service to customers outside of current service areas. Local municipalities may also connect with the infrastructure once the project is complete. The DOLA grant amendment request was approved unanimously, 3-0.

“I think we have a very good chance of doing some really neat things in our county with broadband,” said Commissioner Mike Samson.


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