Craig Yampa Valley leaders worked together on an ongoing challenge facing the region: broadband access.
Representatives from Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties met Tuesday in Craig with Nate Walowitz, regional broadband coordinator for Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, to catch him up on where the region is with high-speed Internet.
We are “trying to develop a regional broadband development plan,” Walowitz said, noting that his position was created specifically for this purpose with grant funding from the Department of Local Affairs.
Deb Hinsvark, Steamboat Springs city manager, pressed Walowitz about what his goal is for the year.
The Council of Governments “collectively, as a whole group, (needs to) come up with a list of projects and priorities,” he said.
Representatives from Steamboat Springs said Internet outages were disruptive to the economy, and the community needed more redundancy in the fibers that reached the town.
Consumers even might be willing to deal with higher costs to avoid blackouts, Hinsvark said.
“It may be more valuable to us to have that line than to suffer another day down,” she said.
Activating more fiber lines would be key, Walowitz said.
“We need the connection and the loops to create our own redundancy,” he said.
Expanding high-speed Internet access is becoming as crucial as infrastructure, he added.
“Creating broadband and letting broadband flourish in unserved and underserved communities is economic development. It’s not just nice to have. It’s a necessity,” he said. “Part of my role is to help you where you need help.”
Ultimately, the counties would need to collaborate to reach their Internet access goals, Walowitz said. He would work on about six regional goals, and the counties involved in the broadband region — Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties — would need to work together to determine common goals.
“It’s up to us to come up with community ideas to insert it into that,” said Audrey Danner, interim director of the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership.
Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.