Broadband strategy being developed for Northwest Colorado
Government officials are trying to bring improved broadband access to northwest Colorado, but they’ve got their work cut out for them.
The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, or NWCCOG, is developing a strategic broadband plan for eight counties. During workshops presented in late June, consultant Paul Recanzone described the region’s current broadband status.
“In sum, northwest Colorado sits at the tail end of a state sitting in the middle of a country in the middle of international broadband performance,” Recanzone said.
Recanzone works with Mid-State Consultants, a firm hired by NWCCOG to develop the broadband strategic plan. As he explained, the region falls staggeringly short when compared to the state’s metro areas. Public schools in the northwest have download speeds of only 4.9 megabits per second, compared to 16.2 on the Front Range. Northwest libraries have upload speeds of 4.3 megabits per second, while libraries on the Front Range have speeds of 100 megabits per second.
“As a community, we are in a position where (broadband) is not our strong suit, not by a long shot,” said Grand County Information Systems Director Martin Woros.
Northwest Colorado is considered an area of “last mile access,” dependent on middle mile areas that connect geographic regions with fiber cables, larger copper bundles or microwave links.
Better broadband access to the region will require improved capacity and price of last mile access, and reliable middle mile access, Recanzone said.
Local governments can improve broadband by creating incentives and penalties for current providers, by building improved infrastructure and through regional cooperative planning.
More details will be included in the broadband strategic plan, which Moros expects to be issued by November. But by holding the broadband workshops, NWCOGG and local government hope to create a dialogue about the issues and get decision-makers on the same page.
“In the end with the plan, we should have a punch list of things that we uncover that are in worse shape than others,” Woros said. “We’ll need to figure out if they’re things the private sector can address, if it takes a partnership, or if it comes down to it, do we need to use public funds to make changes?”
NWCCOG is asking Grand County residents to participate in a short survey that will help them build their broadband blueprint. The survey is available at http://www.nwccog.org under “News and Current Issues.”
Reporter Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603
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