Northwest Colorado works toward better broadband

Just as the field of technology is one that is ever-expanding and evolving, so is the process of keeping all the reaches of the world up to date. It’s not something that ever could truly be finished, but with the effort of like-minded individuals and groups, the increasing developments of the 21st century will be available to all.

This is the goal of the Northwest Colorado Technology Planning Team of Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, an association of people across the region dedicated to improving the area’s broadband Internet. The group met Wednesday afternoon at the Colorado Northwestern Community College Bell Tower to discuss the status of the broadband matter.

Among those present were representatives from telecommunications bodies such as EAGLE-Net Alliance, CenturyLink, Strata Networks and Zirkel Wireless, as well as community members from Craig, Steamboat Springs and Meeker. Audrey Danner, director of Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, led the discussion, focusing on the necessity of bringing the three counties together to better get an idea of what each needs in terms of broadband presence.

Danner, who has put her efforts into bettering area broadband for more than a decade, said the purpose of the meeting was staying in touch among Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco.

“It’s about keeping our conversations going between the three counties,” she said. “We’re stronger as a region than we are individually as counties or cities. It’s about keeping the conversations going between providers and consumers big and small. This is a very important part of our economic development.”

One of the topics was the use of broadband as a means of drawing more location-neutral businesses and employees to Northwest Colorado for a greater variety within the regional workforce. Additionally, telecom reps updated the crowd about where they stood with the region’s school district networks, consumers and other Internet-users.

Danner said each county’s unique requirements create different types of obstacles in the broadband world than one would see in a more urban area. The growth of a broadband infrastructure remains an ongoing job.

“We need a solution that’s fair and equitable for providers and consumers, but that leverages the ability of the hospital or school district or private provider to get additional business also,” she said. “That’s why it’s important for us to build these relationships.”

Bob Amick, a Meeker community member, said he was especially glad to get the inside line on the broadband process, which particularly has been slow in Rio Blanco County.

“We’re kind of a desert island there,” he said. “We’ve got a great IT guy who’s kind of the pilot of the whole thing, but we’re just trying to get the community to understand what we’re trying to do.”

The broadband group plans to meet in Steamboat within the next 60 to 90 days, and any interested parties in Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco are welcome to join the discussion.

Steamboat resident Ken Brenner said the efforts to improve unserved and underserved areas requires a lot of cooperation among the public, whether it’s just staying on top of the issue or getting behind ventures for funding that could further assist the region.

“This is a good collaborative group,” he said.

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