During the February 2015 referendum, approximately 92 percent who voted on the measure, chose to opt out of SB 152 in Estes Park. The mountain town of 6,300 has experienced catastrophic outages dues to ice and flooding, including in 2016 and in 2013 when telecommunications were wiped out for days.
Estes Park has their own electric utility and is part of a regional public power initiative that involves the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA). As a result the town has a fair amount of publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure in place. City officials hired consultants to offer recommendations and by 2016 had entered a design engineering phase of a possible Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) initiative. Experts estimated the cost to connect the community to be around $30 million and recommended a retail model.
At their recent November meeting, members of the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to allow Estes Park staff to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to find broadband bond underwriters. To keep the momentum moving forward, the Trail Gazette published an editorial encouraging Estes Park leadership to continue the process and to bring better connectivity to the community:
…Estes Park needs more action and less discussion for greater access to information and global connectivity. No longer is accessible, fast and reliable broadband Internet a luxury; it is a necessity in our digital world.
Editors stressed that Longmont, Fort Collins, and Loveland have either deployed or are in the process of creating gigabit networks and that Estes Park will be left behind in many ways if forced to depend on the same slow, unreliable Internet access that has left them stranded in the past.
Estes Park, where tourism and the service industry drive the economy, needs to be able to meet the demands of visitors, the businesses that cater to them, and the many families that make tourist vacations worth repeating. Trail Gazette editors also note that local schools are integrating more online technology and that, without affordable connectivity at home, students won’t have the same opportunities as kids in better connected environments.
Primarily, the community needs a broadband utility to avoid the crises caused in the past, when lack of redundancy and weather events cut off Estes Park from the rest of the world. With no access to credit card purchases, ATMs, or mobile service, the local economy took a hit. A municipal network designed to ensure multiple paths would prevent a repeat.
Estes Park needs fast, reliable, affordable broadband internet to stay connected, be safe, stay informed and to continue to be competitive and successful as our economy and community continues to evolve to fit our future needs. The Trail-Gazette sees our Town's broadband utility as a major step forward. Full speed ahead!
According to the town's broadband initiative website, if they find a bond underwriter:
Next steps include consideration of hiring a project manager to finalize a business plan including implementation options, marketing and customer service options. This information will lead the board to a final decision point on starting a new utility. Construction could begin in 2019.