Steamboat Springs businessman Tom Ptach works at Storm Peak Innovation Center in downtown Steamboat Springs. The business incubator is dependent on high-speed, reliable Internet service in order to offer clients the access they need. On Monday, commissioners from Moffat and Routt counties met to discuss regional broadband.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs businessman Tom Ptach works at Storm Peak Innovation Center in downtown Steamboat Springs. The business incubator is dependent on high-speed, reliable Internet service in order to offer clients the access they need. On Monday, commissioners from Moffat and Routt counties met to discuss regional broadband.

Moffat, Routt counties discuss regional broadband

— Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner told her counterparts from Routt County on Monday that she is encouraging economic development officials in the region to look to the private sector in the ongoing effort to increase the telecommunications broadband pipeline into and out of Northwest Colorado.

“The question is, how can we improve broadband availability in Northwest Colorado and make it more affordable and accessible?” Danner asked. She said one possible solution to attracting a private investor might be creating a “carrier neutral location” in a public building where different broadband providers could purchase a piece of local broadband capacity for their customers and connect to the system.

She was speaking during a joint meeting of the two boards of commissioners at the Routt County Courthouse.

“This is not about a local government problem, but I believe we can be a good (facilitator),” Danner said. “This does need to be a private industry solution.”

Danner said she attended a recent meeting of the Yampa Valley Economic Development Council where Reeves Brown, executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, talked about the availability of state resources to promote the extension of broadband to rural areas that don’t have it. Those in attendance were reminded, she said, that as a result of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission’s approval of the 2010 merge of Qwest Communications and CenturyLink, the two companies promised that CenturyLink would invest $70 million over the ensuing five years to bring broadband service to at least 20 percent of the un-served markets in rural Colorado.

Danner said the YVEDC comprises primarily Rio Blanco, Moffat, and Routt counties. But invitations have been extended to communities in Garfield and Jackson counties to join in the effort.

Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan, who sits on the Routt County Economic Development Council, agreed that pulling in a broader range of Northwest Colorado communities is wise and added Grand County to his list. He emphasized that increasing infrastructure is important to avoid events like the Internet shutdown that took place in Steamboat Springs on Halloween 2011.

“Redundancy to be able to route telecommunications around breakdowns is a key,” Sullivan said.

Northwest Colorado already has fiber optic cable from Rifle to Craig (for police and emergency communications) and between Craig and Steamboat. And broadband is available via microwave from Fraser to Steamboat.

Linking them together with increased capacity and redundancy is the goal, officials said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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