Broadband grant application withdrawn, YVEA announces plans for Craig buildout | CraigDailyPress.com

Broadband grant application withdrawn, YVEA announces plans for Craig buildout

Craig Press staff report

CRAIG — The Moffat County Broadband Initiative experienced a significant change of course this month.

After investigating a potential partnership with Yampa Valley Electric Association, revising its Colorado Department of Local Affairs application and presenting to the State Advisory Committee, MCBI leaders announced this week that the city of Craig and Moffat County have withdrawn their application for state funding for broadband construction.

"We initially were pursuing building a municipally owned broadband network to meet our community's needs for this essential building block of a sustainable community and economy," said Mayor John Ponikvar. "With YVEA's intention to construct a similar network and offer service directly to customers, we are confident this will meet our constituents' need for abundant, resilient, affordable internet for business and leisure."

MCBI is a joint effort involving several local community anchor institutions, led by the city of Craig, Moffat County, and CMEDP. In addition to those three entities, Memorial Regional Health, Colorado Northwestern Community College, Moffat County School District, and Moffat County Local Marketing District are also part of the effort.

"We are thrilled that our hard work toward building a design and cost model for a municipal broadband network has brought us to a decision to instead support partner Yampa Valley Electric Association in constructing and operating a fiber-to-the-premise network," said Michelle Perry, executive director of Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership and broadband project champion.

MCBI supported the effort with a three-year contribution to CMEDP to provide administrative work for the network. Because the project objectives have been met earlier than planned, 2019 contributions will not be collected, and any unused funds will be equitably returned to funding partners, Perry said.

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"Our end goal was to contract with private providers to offer last-mile service to fully meet the needs at our community anchor institutions, businesses, and residences,” Perry said. “With YVEA's engagement with our committee and subsequent announcement of a broadband network plan, we are satisfied that our goals for service to our health, public safety, education, and government facilities will be met. This model will allow for construction of the critical infrastructure needed for a solid economic foundation for our community's sustainability," Perry said.

MCBI's revised plan included 14.7 miles of middle-mile fiber infrastructure serving 38 community anchor institutions in Craig and the buildout of a Meet Me Center. YVEA CEO Steve Johnson explained the cooperative intends to offer the same open-access network MCBI had planned, while including similar middle-mile infrastructure and fiber extending to those entities and residences that sign up for service.

"We have similar interests to the city of Craig — to serve our member organizations, businesses, and residents. This project falls in line with our mission of providing critical infrastructure to our members," YVEA CEO Steve Johnson said. "The work done through the Moffat County Broadband Initiative — with the city of Craig, Moffat County and CMEDP at the helm — acted as a catalyst for us to enter the broadband space, as many electric cooperatives across the country are doing. The collaboration within the community is making this buildout possible."

Ponikvar said this collaborative effort with YVEA is the "best possible outcome" the city and the MCBI committee could have envisioned.

Johnson noted YVEA is currently modeling its network design and will be in touch with members soon with internet service offerings.

For more information about the Moffat County Broadband Initiative, visit ci.craig.co.us/government/broadband or contact Perry at 970-620-4370 or director@cmedp.com.