Michelle Perry Balleck: Broadband effort takes small step with huge implications | CraigDailyPress.com

Michelle Perry Balleck: Broadband effort takes small step with huge implications

Michelle Balleck/For Craig Press

Michelle Perry

Progress feels good.

Two weeks ago, our community took a significant step forward in the broadband project, which we are calling the Moffat County Broadband Initiative, or MCBI. The city of Craig and Moffat County each contributed half of the $25,000 pricetag for phase one of the construction project.

We are now under contract with Mammoth Networks to complete the final design and engineering of our network to tee us up for construction grant applications by mid-summer of this year.

In December, I wrote about the rationale and need for building a municipally owned broadband network connecting community anchor institutions and creating a trunk line for business parks. After releasing a request for proposals at the end of January and reviewing the three proposals received by March 1, the city of Craig chose to enter into a contract with Visionary Communications, Inc., doing business as Mammoth Networks. This came at the recommendation of the selection committee convened to evaluate the submissions.

The city of Craig will be the network owner and fiscal agent for the project. Mammoth will serve as the network operator, negotiating contracts and overseeing the development, maintenance and operations of the project.

While this modestly priced contract may seem like a small step, it will have huge implications.

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With the completion of this design and engineering phase within the contracted 90-day period, our community will be poised to submit grant applications to the state and federal government programs that are putting substantial resources behind rural broadband buildouts. We will have firm construction costs and a clear business plan for the implementation of the network. We will have a clear path laid out before us that we can follow to completion.

I am deeply encouraged by the wide support the MCBI has had leading to this point.

The city of Craig and Moffat County are partnering with Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership to lead the implementation, and CMEDP has financial support from these three entities — plus Memorial Regional Health, Colorado Northwestern Community College, Moffat County School District and Moffat County Local Marketing District — to drive the broadband process forward. Numerous volunteers — namely Audrey Danner and Terry Carwile — led the effort prior to CMEDP taking on the champion role a year ago.

The support demonstrated confirms what we all know: We need this critical infrastructure to make a significant impact on the business climate of our community.

We are excited to get to work with Mammoth representatives this week and work through this portion of the MCBI. This phase will be complete within 90 days, and we'll have grant applications prepped and ready for submission.

Next stop: Access to the affordable, reliable internet for Moffat County.

Michelle Perry Balleck is executive director of Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership and Marianna Raftopoulos Business Success Center. She can be reached at 970-620-4370 or director@cmedp.com.