When last we checked in with Glenwood Springs, Colorado, the city council had voted 6-1 to replace and expand the reach of its existing, municipally-owned fiber system. Two years later and the city, long at the vanguard of community-backed broadband solutions, is working on shoring up access to affordable gigabit fiber to harder to reach parts of the city.
“Having broadband available to all of our customers and to our city is important infrastructure,” Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup said at the time. “Even more so over the past few years and highlighted by this pandemic that we’re in right now.” The city was featured in Episode 206 of our Broadband Bits Podcast.
The public access portion of the network, the Glenwood Springs Community Broadband Network (CBN), currently offers local residents symmetrical broadband speeds of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) for $70 a month with no usage caps.
The effort actually began 20 years ago when, frustrated by substandard broadband service from regional incumbent CenturyLink, Glenwood Springs began the process of building its own citywide fiber backbone. As with most such projects, the effort first prioritized connecting key community anchor institutions including local churches, schools, and municipal operations.
In the years since, the city has been working to expand access to that 150 mile fiber backbone to Glenwood Springs’ 4,800 residences and commercial premises, both through driving fiber to existing apartments and homes, or ensuring the installation of fiber conduit to all new city developments.
Public Works Director Matt Langhorst told the Glenwood Springs City Council that the city has 500-600 subscribers, with the goal of serving thousands of new subscribers as soon as possible. He also noted that the project, backed in part by a 20-year loan of $840,500, is currently under budget and ahead of schedule, its timeline trimmed from five years to two.
At this moment, we are under budget because the project is going better than we anticipated it to. It is not a fixed speed project; it’s a time and materials project. We are on pace right now to hit about $1 million in revenue this year, which is pretty significant for us. We are a little over $1 million under budget.
Glenwood Springs residents can see if they’re address qualifies for service here.
In 2008, Glenwood Springs was the first city in Colorado to opt out of Senate Bill 152, a state law lobbied for by incumbent telecom monopolies that greatly restricted municipally-backed broadband deployment and financing options. In the years since, a steady parade of frustrated communities (more than 150 all told) have followed suit.
The result has been a massive boost in faster, more affordable fiber options, whether in cities like Longmont, or the growing number of Colorado communities (including Glenwood Springs) tethered to the Project Thor open access middle mile fiber network currently expanding affordable access across the Northwestern part of the state.
Inline image of Glenwood Springs courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)