Last week the Federal Communications Commission announced a public/private partnership with CenturyLink to extend broadband Internet access to rural Coloradans.
The announcement was made last Thursday through the FCC’s Connect America Fund, which is allocating $6 million to assist CenturyLink in providing greater broadband access to more than 8,100 Colorado locations.
CenturyLink, the nation’s third largest communications company, is expected to bring broadband Internet access to more than 21,000 residents as a result of the partnership.
Following the announcement Colorado Democrat Sen. Mark Udall called the partnership an important first step for Colorado businesses.
“Broadband Internet connects the businesses of rural Colorado with new customers and rural residents with the broader world,” Udall said in a news release. “This partnership is a great example of the positive, productive role government can play when it partners with the private sector.
“It is crucial that we continue doing all we can to level the broadband playing field and ensure that rural Coloradans have the same quality of Internet access as their urban counterparts.”
Though the partnership is expected to touch more than 21,000 residents in more than 8,100 locations, it does not stipulate which communities would benefit from the $6 million in funds.
Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner, who has been championing access to rural broadband in northwest Colorado for some time, said she assumes communities may have to compete for their share of the funds.
On Thursday the Northwestern Colorado Local Technology Planning Team, a collaboration of businesses, residents and government officials in Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties, is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. in the main level conference room at the Moffat County Courthouse, 221 W. Victory Way.
The FCC, CenturyLink partnership is going to be one of the topics of conversation, Danner said.
Though five CenturyLink representatives attended a northwest Colorado broadband meeting in December and identified Craig and Moffat County as a location ripe for increased broadband access, an invitation to attend this week’s meeting had not yet been accepted as of Sunday, Danner said.
“Six million dollars is a wonderful commitment to Colorado,” Danner said. “It is an important amount of money and we will certainly ask for investment in northwest Colorado. We have been asking.”
In January Danner’s term as commissioner comes to an end, which begs the question who will carry the broadband torch in her absence.
Though Danner does not believe it is the county’s responsibility to provide the infrastructure for increased broadband Internet access, she does believe an elected county official should lead the effort in building the necessary partnerships.
Danner said she has spoken with the candidates competing for Moffat County’s District 1 and District 2 seats including Dave DeRose, Chuck Grobe, John Kinkaid and Rick Barnes.
“I would be respectful of other commissioners as to how they would want to approach this,” Danner said. “Yet we’re going to need to stay on top of it or it won’t happen.”
Danner may be nearing the end of her tenure on the board of county commissioners, but said she also sits on a committee with the state’s Office of Information Technology.
Danner believes that relationship and her knowledge of the issue would allow her to remain active in the rural broadband effort in some capacity in the future.
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