Nonprofit seeks county support for fiber project in Grand |

Nonprofit seeks county support for fiber project in Grand

A Winter Park based nonprofit is hoping to build up Grand County’s broadband internet with a new project that would install more fiber infrastructure.

WRC, a communications nonprofit, spoke to the Board of Grand County Commissioners on Tuesday about their plans to utilize federal and state dollars to build middle mile fiber infrastructure and improve Grand County’s internet access.

“Connectivity is the first element (to broadband), so if we’re going to bring additional jobs, if we’re going to get folks who are living here today other opportunities, they have to have the appropriate connectivity,” said Matt Bauer, Grand County’s project lead for WRC. “Our No. 1 thing is to advance and grow the economy for the citizens of Grand County.”

The company is partnering with other broadband projects in the region, including Northwest Colorado Council of Government’s Project Thor and Mountain Parks Electric fiber, to strengthen the existing infrastructure.

“We have a great head start … we have a lot of network that we can put to use and we have some private partners that would be willing to make investments to upgrade the wire in the wireless infrastructure,” Bauer said.

Currently, WRC is working on an assessment, a blueprint, a budget and will soon begin asking for state and federal grants, said Todd Spain, leader of strategic initiatives for WRC. The company plans to do a phased rollout for the project and complete it by 2022.

Though WRC didn’t seek county funding on Tuesday, Spain said he hoped the commissioners would support the project by being customers and helping the group secure grant funding if necessary.

“We’re hoping to build out services and infrastructure that the county can use for years to come and really improve the cell service in this building,” Spain said of the county administrative building in Hot Sulphur Springs.

WRC is seeking around $120,000 in funding for the project. Spain added that they are shovel ready on the first 50 miles of fiber in between Winter Park and Hot Sulphur Springs.

“We’re hoping by the end of the summer, we’ve got fiber coming here to the building,” Spain said.

Some local internet service providers did express concerns about the county possibly funding WRC’s project.

In an effort to determine how the project could benefit the county, the BOCC decided to continue the discussion with more stakeholders at its July 7 meeting.

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