Internet Service Providers explore broadband expansion options in county
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified what CBRS stood for. It is Citizens Broadband Radio Service.
As Grand County continues to grow, underlying infrastructure questions have emerged, including questions surrounding the capabilities of the available internet options, particularly in more rural parts of the county.
Several internet service providers in the area are making efforts to expand high-speed internet because of the importance of good internet connection for business, healthcare, education and growth.
Last week, a Comcast representative spoke to the county commissioners, town mayors and managers about investments the company has made in improving speed and expanding their customer base.
Andy Davis, director for government affairs at Comcast, said right now all of the towns in Grand County have access to the entire suite of options, including broadband, cable and satellite, except Kremmling, where Davis said Comcast is currently working on being able to provide a fiber option.
“It’s the same suite of services we have in the metro area,” Davis said.
Davis also highlighted Comcast’s investment in hybrid fiber and coaxial cables, which could provide speeds up to one gigabit, much faster than current internet connections, including fiber.
“What that means is you can build it where, theoretically, they thought in the past that you couldn’t,” Davis explained. “The technology we’ve developed on the other ends of that (coaxial cable) now allow us to go gig and multi-gig over that network.”
The Federal Communications Commission announced last month that it’s prioritizing expanding broadband infrastructure to rural areas, including offering more money to companies expanding their rural footprint.
CenturyLink, another internet service provider, announced an expansion of their broadband services thanks in part to money they received from the FCC to do so.
Its expansion includes 3,000 new homes in northwest Colorado, including Grand County, with speeds from 10 megabits per second (mbps) to 25 mbps.
Local internet service providers are looking to expand as well, including Winter Park’s Slopeside Internet.
Owner Dan Lubar has plans to offer a high-speed broadband technology known as Citizens Broadband Radio Service once the FCC rules on how the technology can be used commercially.
Lubar said the advantage of using CBRS would mean higher internet speeds, up to 100 mbps, and higher capacity, meaning more data can be transmitted. He hopes to roll this option out next year.
“The expansion that we are going to be doing is being able to offer really significant speeds and a band of spectrum that you have to be registered to use, it’s not Wi-Fi,” he explained. “You’re going to see a breathtaking change next year in both competitive pressure and the opportunities to do broadband.”
Offering broadband that is abundant, affordable and redundant is important because it helps draw new businesses and start-ups into the area, Lubar said.
“Without broadband that is redundant, abundant and affordable, you’re not going to be able to attract those companies up here,” he said. “And the real value of broadband access is non-location specific jobs and the ability to create significant value in the local economy that otherwise wouldn’t be there.”
Since internet access is also key for many jobs and schools, Comcast also has a program that allows low-income families and individuals to access affordable internet and a laptop.
The program is open to community college students on Pell Grants, families using lunch assistance programs at school, families receiving housing assistance and low-income veterans. Through this program, Comcast has assisted about 240,000 Coloradans.
“We know that for just about any job in the future, education, things are moving to having to be connected digitally and when someone doesn’t have that connection at home it creates a divide,” said Leslie Oliver, director of media and external communications for Comcast. “So we want to do what we can in the space where we are to try to address that.”
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