Back in February, voters in Estes Park, Colorado, enthusiastically reclaimed authority to decide locally on a community fiber network. Now the community is moving ahead by taking a detailed look at deploying a municipal gigabit network.
BizWest reports that a consultant hired to study connectivity in the town of 5,800 recently recommended five possible solutions to the community's poor connectivity problem. The Town Board of Trustees considered a municipal telecommunications utility to be the most promising and passed the issue to city staff for further research.
“Now it’s up to us to thoroughly research the feasibility of the town establishing a broadband service utility, considering our financial and operational abilities and the best interests of the community’s future,” said Mayor Bill Pinkham in a media release.
The Estes Park Light and Power Division give this Rocky Mountain town an advantage because it already has electricity distribution infrastructure, utilty poles, and personnel in place. As part of a regional public power initiative, Estes Park also has fiber connecting it to nearby towns, giving it affordable backhaul to the wider Internet.
The consultant recommended forgoing any television or telephone services to focus on delivering high quality Internet access. The cost of deployment will be approximately $27 - $30 million. With a take rate of 30-40 percent, the community should be able to pay off the investment in 10 - 12 years.
The consultant estimated monthly rates could run approximately $50 - $60 for 100 Mbps download and 1 gig per second for $70 - $95 (specific upload speeds were not mentioned). Businesses will likely pay approximately $150 - $180 per month for 100 Mbps and $300 - $400 per month for gigabit speeds.
In 2014, the community received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. They had suffered significant damage due to flooding and the purpose of the grant was to seek out ways to diversify the local economy. Estes Park, very dependent on its tourist trade, has poor last-mile connectivity like many other similarly situated vacation destinations. Better connectivity is becoming a must-have for resorts and lodges, even in remote mountain areas.
Community leaders feel a fiber network might improve an already established tourist trade while ensuring future economic development opportunity for the entire region:
“It’s a game changer for us because we can attract year-round businesses that are location-neutral or IT software-development focused,” [President and CEO of the Estes Park Economic Development Corp., Jon] Nicholas said. “But it’s also a game changer for southwest Larimer County because home-based businesses would have access to 1-gig Internet as well as our hotels and downtown businesses.”
Staff anticipates offering a more detailed analysis of the recommendation some time in September.