Grand County internet speeds looking up
The demand for high-speed Internet services has never been stronger and is believed to be a fundamental building block for progress in mountain communities.The dial-up of yesteryear could handle simple text and emails, but today’s user is streaming video, sending photos through email, and visiting elaborate image-heavy websites – and providers are scrambling to keep up with consumer expectations.The need for remote Internet for people who now have the option to work from their mountain homes has never been higher, as well as the need for some businesses to move large quantities of data each day.Just in the past year, a lot has happened in the realm of improving broadband services in Grand County. Most of the improvements took place on the western end of the county, and at least one local Internet provider is taking advantage of it, bringing Internet to the far reaches of the county where reliable and affordable high-speed was once a distant hope.Where before the Kremmling area was the most under-served area in the county, now it has some of the fastest residential Internet speeds available in Grand County alongside the other best-served area in the town of Granby.Granby has benefited from Comcast fiber optic cable to provide its high-speed Internet. And now the third largest telecommunications company in the U.S., CenturyLink, announced in June it had expanded its high-speed Internet to residential and small business customers in Kremmling, offering connection speeds up to 12 Mbps, or possibly more.Kremmling may not be the county’s population epicenter, but it was a logical place to have a metro-ethernet link, continuing CenturyLink’s fiber from Dillon. And Kremmling was targeted because it was one of the most under-served areas of rural Colorado, benefiting from the 2011 merger of CenturyLink and Qwest Communications during which $70 million was set aside as a provision of the Public Utilities Commission to facilitate broadband development in rural Colorado over a five-year period starting in January 2011.Kremmling ended up being one of those “under-served” areas, according to Randy Krause, spokesperson of CenturyLink.In August, the Public Utilities Commission received an update from CenturyLink – the details of which the Commission is keeping confidential -and learned the company has “met or exceeded about 75 percent of the goal already,” said Terry Bote, spokesperson for the Public Utilities Commission. The provision included a commitment that 20 percent of the broadband be brought to “unserved or under-served areas” of Colorado.CenturyLink opened up DSL services to people within the Kremmling city limits, and Ethernet over Copper is targeted to business customers in need of moving a great amount of data between multiple offices, such as physician’s groups, real estate offices, regional banks, government buildings and schools.New equipment and added capacity to the backbone that connects Grand County to the outside world includes supplying improved services at a more affordable rate in the towns of Fraser/Winter Park, Hot Sulphur Springs, Grand Lake, Granby and Kremmling, according to Scott McKenzie, business sales manager of CenturyLink. Improved broadband “helps break down some of the economic development barriers communities have when they don’t have those techonologies,” he said. Jumping on the bandwidthEden Recor of Grand County Internet Services Inc. – doling out internet to Grand County consumers since 1996 – recently brokered wholesale bandwidth at a reduced rate from both Comcast and CenturyLink and has since invested in his own local network.Recor uses high-speed fixed radios to transfer data, connecting areas of Grand County by way of 12-foot towers placed at high-elevation points.Before, Recor was severely limited in the amount of megabits he could afford. Even with existing fiber optic cable laced to the county, the cost of connecting to under-served areas of Kremmling proved far too much of an investment to make it worthwhile, he said. Eventually, mapping Software through Google Earth became available, and Recor was able to identify a path where he could create links by installing solar array towers on mountaintops with batteries for backup power, effectively “hopping” to remote neighborhoods where high-speed Internet service never before existed.”What he’s doing is incredibly impressive,” Grand County Information Services Director Martin Woros said of Recor. “His ability to negotiate leasing metro-fiber services from CenturyLink and Comcast was an ability that did not exist a year ago. He’s packaging a product closer to what the mountain community is asking for.”With access to two broadband “backbones” now in the county, Recor hopes to supply businesses with back-up sources of Internet to prevent times when there is a disruption in service. It’s estimated one such incident of an accidental cut in fiber-optic cable in northern Colorado in 2011 cost neighboring counties significant tax revenue because interruption occurred at the peak time of credit-card transactions.Reliable, redundant Internet services in remote areas of Grand County may attract partnering businesses that rely on Internet, Recor said, such as implementation of cutting-edge technology in home security systems, home control and video camera systems and television systems.To Woros, CenturyLink’s service to Kremmling helps in the overall scope of Grand County’s residential and business prospects.Grand County, after all, “can’t fall behind another resort community” in competition for broadband to service its citizens and visitors – from its prospective convention attendees to its NetFlix watchers. “And if you look at it that way,” he said, “we’re doing pretty well.”- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603
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