Moffat County official pushing for better broadband access

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Audrey Danner

Quotable

“If Steamboat had redundant loops, service could have been transferred to another line or been picked up by another provider. Think about the potential loss of revenue to not only businesses, but to the city and the county because transactions couldn’t be processed.”

— Audrey Danner, Moffat County Commissioner and facilitator of the Northwestern Colorado Local Technology Planning Team

Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner has made increased access to secure broadband in Craig and Northwest Colorado a priority for her constituents.

Better broadband service would improve nearly every aspect vital to the well being of the community, including education, health care and economic development, Danner said.

The idea is to create an information technology environment in Craig and Moffat County that is reliable, redundant and affordable.

Though bookended by words everyone can understand, Danner said redundancy sometimes gets lost in translation.

Simply put, redundancy refers to laying multiple fiber optic lines to and from a variety of distribution locations.

The more redundant loops running in and out of the region, the more pathways there are to maintain the flow of information and communication should a fiber optic line be knocked out, Danner said.

She cited a communications outage last fall in Steamboat Springs to stress the importance of redundancy.

In October 2011, a CenturyLink fiber optic line in the Frisco/Dillon area was severed, disrupting Verizon cellular phone and Internet service in Steamboat Springs for hours.

“If Steamboat had redundant loops, service could have been transferred to another line or been picked up by another provider,” Danner said. “Think about the potential loss of revenue to not only businesses, but to the city and the county because transactions couldn’t be processed.”

Concerns extend beyond lost revenues, she said.

In an era of electronic record keeping and file sharing a communications disruption could literally be life threatening if a hospital, for example, could not access or share patient information with other health care providers.

Safeguarding Craig and Moffat County from a similar incident would require contracting with a company to lay “middle mile” fiber optic lines connecting communities in Northwest Colorado with as many other distribution hubs throughout the state, Danner said.

The long-term goal is to one day connect Craig to redundant loops running to Grand Junction, Denver and Salt Lake City.

The region may begin taking small steps toward making that a reality.

As facilitator of the Northwestern Colorado Local Technology Planning Team, an affiliation of state and local elected officials, business owners, service providers, education representatives and interested citizens in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, Danner has been coordinating broadband action meetings for months.

During a recent meeting, representatives from EAGLE‑Net Alliance, a Colorado intergovernmental entity which has a goal to deliver a carrier quality broadband network to more than 170 communities across the state, voiced an interest in laying redundant fire optic cable to area schools.

If it commits to the project, EAGLE-Net could provide enough infrastructure to entice local providers to piggyback off the lines and expand reliable and redundant broadband access to customers in the community.

But this is far from a done deal, Danner said.

There are still many questions that need to be answered, including how to fund such a large-scale communications project.

The next broadband team meeting takes place in about two weeks, Danner said. The time, date and place of the meeting are still to be determined.

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