Colorado Congressmen condemn actions of middle mile broadband service provider

EAGLE-Net Alliance: We’re on task to bring service to rural Colorado

Quotable

“One of the benefits about the EAGLE-Net network is not only can we service other government entities, but our network comes with open access. So other providers are able to purchase bandwidth or broadband capacity from us to better enhance and serve their customer base.”

Gretchen Dirks, vice president of public relations and communications for EAGLE-Net Alliance

A state company tasked with establishing broadband infrastructure in rural Colorado communities has come under scrutiny by several Colorado Congressmen.

EAGLE-Net Alliance, headquartered in Broomfield, is an intergovernmental organization affiliated with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

It was created in 2007 to improve broadband access across Colorado, particularly to public schools, to create a comprehensive, statewide network.

In 2010, EAGLE-Net was awarded a $100.6 million grant from the United States Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, in coordination with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Officials at EAGLE-Net then identified more than 170 Colorado communities it intends to provide with “middle mile” broadband infrastructure, and to serve as anchor institutions between route lines, before the Aug. 2013 grant deadline.

Craig is among those 170 Colorado communities identified to serve as an anchor institution.

But several Colorado Congressmen do not believe EAGLE-Net is honoring its intended mission.

In a letter to Lawrence E. Strickling, assistant secretary for communications and information at the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Colorado Congressmen Scott Tipton, R-Cortez; Cory Gardner, R-Yuma; Mike Coffman, R-Lone Tree; and Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs condemned EAGLE-Net for overbuilding already established broadband networks in an effort to compete against local telecommunications companies for customers.

“Places like the San Luis Valley, the Lower Arkansas Valley and significant swaths of northeastern Colorado already benefit from high-speed Internet access, courtesy of those local telecommunications providers,” the letter states. “Further, (EAGLE-Net) openly intends to compete with those providers for the business of these ‘anchor institutions,’ which include local governments, law enforcement agencies, libraries and other public entities that, in rural Colorado, are the lifeblood of the private telecommunications providers.”

Gretchen Dirks, vice president of public relations and communications for EAGLE-Net, said Tuesday the organization has not and does not plan to answer the Strickling letter directly.

It did however address some of the Congressmen’s concerns in a company newsletter released earlier this month.

Of particular importance, Dirks noted that as a middle mile service provider Colorado law prevents EAGLE-Net from competing with other companies for residential, commercial or small business customers.

“There are lots of areas in the state that already have fiber, but providers may not necessarily be able to connect to that fiber depending on the policies and procedures of who owns it,” she said. “One of the benefits about the EAGLE-Net network is not only can we service other government entities, but our network comes with open access.

“So, other providers are able to purchase bandwidth or broadband capacity from us to better enhance and serve their customer base.”

Dirks added that EAGLE-Net’s mission is to build partnerships with local service providers. Without it she argues the potential of EAGLE-Net’s redundant network could never come to fruition.

“We need to and we want to work with those last mile providers,” Dirks said. “We’re looking for every opportunity to work with as many other carriers as possible to make this network come to life and serve the public need.”

EAGLE-Net officials have participated in numerous planning meetings in northwest Colorado during the course of the last year.

According to its web site, EAGLE-Net’s network is on schedule to be operational in Craig by Aug. 2013.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com

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