Federal money could bring Broadband improvements
December 24, 2015
A federal program could pour $4 million into broadband infrastructure in Grand County over the next six years.
Phase II of the Federal Communications Commission's Connect America Fund, which uses federal dollars to subsidize broadband service for rural areas, has allocated $26.5 million each year to Colorado for five years.
Local Internet providers, residents and local government officials met to discuss the program at a workshop held by the Grand County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 15. The CAF II money is being offered to the nation's largest telecommunications carriers. In Grand County, CenturyLink would administer the money to upgrade its broadband infrastructure. CenturyLink has sought input from Grand County officials on what areas of the county are underserved, said Grand County Information Systems Director Martin Woros.
The county has identified a number of underserved areas in the Fraser Valley including Ice Box Estates, upper Meadow Ridge and Winter Park Ranch, as well as areas near Kremmling including Big Horn Park and Old Park. Maps detailing underserved areas were provided to CenturyLink in October, Woros said.
Eden Recor, owner of Grand County Internet Services said he was against CAF II because it was increasingly funding infrastructure used for entertainment purposes rather than more important uses.
"It's no longer supporting the need for Internet for the connectivity of businesses, of people to websites, of things like that," Recor said. "It's to stream movies. It's not even being used to stream education because there's not even a lot of educational stuff that's being streamed over the Internet."
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Recor said funding large telecommunications companies like CenturyLink is hurting smaller private businesses.
Woros said that while Recor made some good points, CenturyLink had gone through the trouble of applying for the money and Grand County should collaborate with the telecom giant.
"Is it going to solve all of our problems?," Woros asked. "No. There's not going to be one program. There's not going to be one solution that's going to fill in everything."
Woros said Grand County's best bet was to use the opportunity to work with CenturyLink "to get the biggest bang out of this as possible."
Richard Cimino with Slopeside Internet said that the county should encourage CenturyLink to partner with local companies.
"Ask them to be the middle mile provider," Cimino said. "Let us connect to them. We'll employ locals. We'll be two local companies that are growing, and I think we'll make a better Internet environment for the whole county."
Kremmling Town Manager Mark Campbell said there needed to be more redundancy in the broadband system, especially around Kremmling.
Local business owner Pat Jacques said the money should be used to bolster the county's "backbone" of broadband infrastructure.
"We have got to have infrastructure and when you talk to me about 100 megabit infrastructure, I'm saying, 'hell, no,'" Jacques said. "We need gigabit infrastructure because the needs are going to get progressively higher and higher and higher."
Woros said CenturyLink representatives would be returning to the county, possibly in early or mid January, to further discuss how they will be spending the CAF II money.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.