Several counties have partnered to form a new committee to keep watch over broadband Internet services in rural areas of Northwest Colorado.
Committee member Audrey Danner said the committee serves two purposes — communicating with state officials and keeping an eye on local broadband services.
Danner is also a member of the Governor’s Broadband Council, which Gov. Bill Ritter formed in April to help spread broadband access throughout the state.
According to executive order 10-005, which created the state council, the governor’s broadband council will support broadband economic development, deployment and penetration.
The state council is also responsible to help map the availability of broadband services throughout Colorado.
According to the executive order, a lack of broadband Internet access hinders economic activity, information flow and remote work options.
“Many parts of Colorado, particularly those living in rural areas, still lack access to broadband Internet services and the adoption rate of broadband is questionable where it is available,” the executive order reads.
Northwest Colorado broadband committee members plan to assist the state with its mapping project, Danner said.
The committee will also look at the local picture of broadband to identify shortfalls in service and work to create remedies with local providers, Danner said.
The committee was formed in early June and currently includes representatives from Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties, Danner said.
About 12 representatives from sectors such as government, education, health care and business make up the committee, but Danner said the group is looking to expand.
Danner said she hopes the committee can stay in communication electronically and meet in person throughout the year to stay current.
Danner called broadband Internet a “key infrastructure.”
“All of us can use broadband to deliver services, to communicate more effectively and efficiently,” she said. “It is a community resource that is necessary to develop.”
Expanding broadband services, Danner said, is just as important as expanding electrical access was in the 1930s, and developing roads and interstates.
She said increased broadband access can help strengthen a variety of industries such as the business sector, schools, local government and health care.
Craig City Council member Jennifer Riley said she felt it was important to serve on the committee because broadband access is somewhat limited in rural areas of Moffat County.
But, Riley said there may be some rural residents who would choose not to have Internet connection.
“Some of these people who live in very rural parts of our county live there because they don’t want to … live in a rural part of the county by and large,” she said. “Even if broadband was available, they still may not take advantage of that.”
However, that isn’t discouraging Riley from volunteering to help provide a service she said is a quick, easy and inexpensive way to send and receive information.
“So many services are available online via the Internet that it’s becoming more and more possible to not have to leave the confines of your house if that is what you choose to do,” she said. “However, if you live out in the rural parts of the county, it becomes more difficult.”