Green Nylon jacketed 576 fiber optic ribbon cable end used for broadband networks.

Middle-mile network implementation moves forward

December 21, 2021

Garfield 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. The Board of County Commissioners approved a $200,000 budget supplement to cover the remaining costs of the project, which is not to exceed $1,140,180. More than $970,000 of a previously awarded Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant is also being utilized toward the project’s costs.

That DOLA matching grant has been reallocated toward the middle-mile efforts from a prior proposal to implement wireless infrastructure, which was determined to be cost-prohibitive. The $200,000 supplement is coming from federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which are eligible to cover the cost of broadband infrastructure. The county has already received a portion of the ARPA funding.

“We dove into the rules and we’ve had some conversations with DOLA, and this funding can be used for broadband,” said Garfield County Procurement and Contracts Director Jamaica Watts. “We met with Vero and worked to create some savings on the project, and they lowered their proposal from the original $1.4 million. They found a savings of around $300,000.”

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for reliable, high-speed Internet service, as many Americans worked, attended school, met with doctors, and communicated with loved ones online.

This “middle-mile” infrastructure will connect with meet-me centers in Glenwood Springs and Rifle, and Vero will connect with fiber lines along Interstate 70. The county has partnered with Montrose-based nonprofit Region 10, which leverages resources to help provide affordable, high-speed Internet service to Western Slope communities, to realize a robust broadband network.

Having a strong middle-mile infrastructure in place could attract new investors to the area, and private broadband providers may then offer wireless services to more remote areas of the county in the future. Phases 2 and 3 of the project entail seeking interested partners that may be interested in providing that “last-mile” service to customers outside of current service areas.

“Broadband has been a priority of ours for years now,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “I’m glad to see this getting done.”

The request for the supplement and award of the contract were approved unanimously, 3-0.

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