Local business owner seeking to expand broadband to rural areas
March 24, 2010
Danny Hutton, owner of Hutton's Radio Communications, no longer wants Moffat County to be the poster child for a lack of broadband Internet access.
Hutton is in the process of applying for a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will help build a backbone to provide the rural residents of Moffat County with wireless broadband connections.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 dealt $7.2 billion to expand broadband access to communities across the nation through funding and grants. The ARRA was designed, in part, to create jobs and boost economic activity through development of technological infrastructure.
And Hutton wants Moffat County to have a slice of the pie.
He said there is no high-speed Internet coverage two miles outside of Craig. He hopes to expand coverage to those who need it.
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"It's costly to cover a remote area and without government help, that's just not going to happen," he said.
Hutton hopes to employ four more employees if granted the money to set up wireless towers and infrastructure.
At the same time he began the "lengthy" grant application, he started a new company, Western Wilderness Wireless, to manage the wireless portion of Hutton's Radio Communications.
He said Western Wilderness Wireless will continue regardless if he gets the grant money.
"This is going to be a whole lot of work for me, but in the long run it is for the people," he said.
But he thinks the hard work will be worth it.
"After living here for 50 years, you get to know a lot of people in rural areas, and they all are calling saying, 'Hey, can you get us Internet?'" he said.
Hutton contends the benefits of Internet access are numerous.
"We have a large number of people who want to work from their homes that don't have high-speed access," he said. "It would also provide telephone service to those homes where there is no telephone service now."
Hutton considers high-speed Internet to be a valuable community service, as well.
"We will have high-speed access at libraries and community facilities in Maybell and Dinosaur, which would benefit the tourism," he said.
Wireless broadband also could benefit area emergency and trauma services.
"If you had, say, an ambulance that needed to pull up a Google map or remote firefighter for the BLM that wanted to pull up some information off the Internet," Hutton explained.
He considers this distribution of information to rural areas to be a wise investment in economic stimulus money because it "benefits everyone directly."
The Moffat County Commission supports Hutton's request for grant money.
Commissioner Audrey Danner recently wrote a letter of support for Hutton to include with the grant application.
She contends broadband access is important for the community and economic development.
"It's a key infrastructure," she said. "They're saying broadband is the next wave of electricity such as in the 1920s when they put the grid of electricity across America."
Danner is also pleased to support Hutton's pursuit of stimulus money.
"To use stimulus dollars for development of infrastructure in our communities, especially in rural areas of our nation, is a wise use of dollars," she said.
Although the commission is supportive of Hutton's request, it is trying to expand Internet services in a different way.
On March 10, the county commission approved, 3-0, a contract for services with the Statewide Internet Portal Authority to potentially add or revise the county's Web services.
She also said the parallel issues of broadband access and services potentially provided by a SIPA partnership can better connect constituents with their government.
"Delivery of services for the government, for health care and connecting private physicians to hospitals, we're all underdeveloped in the past and will use increasing broadband amounts," she said.
Although Danner thinks technological development in Moffat County has come "light-years" in the past 15 years, she thinks the county needs "to keep moving forward."
Brian Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or email@example.com.