Pipes and ducts for fiber optics for high speed telecommunications.

County seeks solutions to broadband roadblock

Linking to arbitrary CDOT connection points could cost the county millions

March 8, 2023

Garfield County has sent a letter to Colorado Governor Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Commission emphasizing its frustration over hurdles to implement broadband service as an economic boost for western Colorado. The letter requests that the governor’s office immediately allow Garfield County and its municipalities, as well as those on the Western Slope needing access, connections to CDOT’s fiber lines running along Interstate 70.

The county has secured Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grants to match taxpayer dollars in realizing the first two phases of broadband rollout along I-70 but hasn’t yet received approval from CDOT to connect certain towns and cities to the agency’s fiber lines.

“CDOT’s unwillingness to be a partner in the solution of Western Slope broadband has the potential to cost Garfield County alone an additional $4.7 million to build parallel fiber to reach CDOT’s designated and arbitrary splice locations,” the letter reads. “Parachute is a town that CDOT will not consider use of its closest vault, due to no mutual benefit for CDOT. This decision will cost our constituents an additional $1.7 million.”

The letter notes that similar hurdles in western Colorado could cost communities as much as $11 million. Garfield County is partnering with Region 10, which leverages resources to help provide affordable, high-speed Internet service to Western Slope communities. Region 10 has been waiting on CDOT’s Intelligent Transportation System Department for access to its fiber line along I-70.

“Critically, we have DOLA grant deadlines looming, as well as risk the future last-mile funding if we do not have an established middle mile,” the letter states. “We do not have another six months for CDOT to determine if we can or cannot splice into the vaults nearest our communities.”

“We have many places, one of which is close to the roundabout in Rifle, and they are saying they won’t let us connect to the fiber there,” said Commissioner Mike Samson. “They’re saying that we’ll have to take it roughly another two miles down the line.”

The letter, which was approved unanimously, 3-0, is addressed to Gov. Polis, the CDOT commission and Chairman Don Stanton, CDOT District 7 Commissioner Kathy Hall, CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew, and DOLA Northwestern Regional Manager Dana Hlavac. The letter can be read online.