Technology team trying to improve broadband service in Yampa Valley

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Frank Ohrtman posed a question on economic development to the 15 people attending Thursday’s Northwest Colorado Local Technology Planning Team meeting at the Moffat County Courthouse.

“You ask yourself, ‘Gee, why wouldn’t somebody relocate to Craig?’” said Ohrtman, communications manager for the broadband data and development program in the state’s Office of Information Technology.

“We’ve got mountain biking, we’ve got Steamboat (Springs) just down the road. Why wouldn’t Microsoft, Google, etcetera, etcetera, come to Hayden and set up a park out there?”

He then pointed to a display behind him representing the strengths of more expensive broadband services.

“Right here, reliability,” he said, citing a problem with broadband networks in the region. “Any kind of business you’re in, if your telecommunications are down for 20 hours, you’re toast. You’re out of here.”

The Technology Planning Team, which is focused on improving broadband Internet technology in the region and making it more accessible to rural areas, spent a portion of the meeting discussing the potential economic lure of better broadband services.

Representatives of Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco, Eagle and Grand counties all attended the meeting. A representative from Jackson County was unable to attend.

The team is currently collecting data through various surveys to learn how best to address improving regional service.

Ohrtman encouraged members of the team not to think of broadband as a local issue, but as a regional one.

It was a sentiment shared by regional economist Scott Ford.

With the upcoming formation of a statewide economic development plan, Ford encouraged county representatives to take a uniform view regarding broadband service.

The economic plan is being built at the county and regional levels, and will later be integrated into a state plan.

“All of a sudden, it goes ‘That’s the theme,’” Ford said. “You fix it for one (county), you fix it for all of us.”

The Technology Planning Team hopes that in developing improved broadband service, Internet entrepreneurs will be able to operate in the region.

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