In Larimer County, at the northern end of the Front Range in Colorado, county officials are looking to secure between $5 million and $30 million in federal grant money to expand broadband access into underserved areas. Last month, the County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved up to a 10 percent match, or up to $3 million, if the county is awarded the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) grant.
The Fort Collins-based engineering and construction firm Ditesco has been hired by the county to help apply for the grant. Ditesco has a track record in the county for successfully supporting broadband projects, helping both Fort Collins, the seat of Larimer County, and Loveland with the engineering and managing of their networks.
During a presentation at the county board meeting in early August, Nathan Hoople, senior project manager for Ditesco told the board of commissioners there are 10 high priority areas where these funds could be used. This phase could potentially serve 7,300 premises, with about 3,000 to 4,000 households expected to sign up for county broadband.
The county’s plan is to fund the expansion of the existing municipal fiber networks in Loveland (Pulse Broadband) and Fort Collins (Fort Collins Conexon) into some of these high priority areas.
“Our strategy is to build from where we have existing service providers and start expanding out,” Mark Pfaffinger, Larimer County Chief Information Officer said at the meeting. “Our goal is not just to stop here, but to fill in all the other areas that are currently identified as areas of need.”
We’ve been reporting on the push for broadband expansion in Larimer County since 2017 when the county was awarded with a $82,000 grant from the State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Broadband Program to conduct a feasibility study.
While some cities in Larimer County have built their own fiber-to-the-home networks, such as Fort Collins, Estes Park, and Loveland, residents in the more rural parts of the county remain underserved.
Those residents are hopeful the county’s efforts will be successful as a 2018 study indicated a majority of residents want the county to continue to expand broadband access countywide. County officials will find out if they’ve been granted the funds by the end of the year.