In recent years, co-ops and municipalities in Colorado have been making fiber optic network investments to provide connectivity so citizens can compete in the digital economy. With all this fiber deployment in Colorado, there are still extremely rural areas that lack access to broadband. With a little help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), people living in Dove Creek, near the Utah border, will soon have access to fiber connectivity.
Another Cooperative Receives ReConnect Funding
This fall and winter, we've reported on several electric and telephone rural cooperatives that have won funding through the USDA's ReConnect Program. In Dove Creek, Emery Telecommunications & Video, Inc., a subsidiary of cooperative Emery Telecom will extend service to the small community in Dolores County, Colorado. The co-op will use the $2.73 million grant to deploy Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to more than 500 residences, eight school district facilities, and public safety facilities in Dove Creek and in the nearby community of Monticello, Utah. Among the premises that will receive better connectivity will be farms, ranches, and small businesses.
Emery Telecom will add $1 million to the grant funding and anticipates completing the project within five years, although Emery CEO Brock Johansen believes they can finish deployment sooner. The demand is high, adding extra motivation to finish the project sooner. “We get a lot of requests for service out near the state line,” he said.
"Best Thing Since Pockets on a Shirt"
Neither residents nor businesses have options for Internet access in Dove Creek and and the only type of Internet access available are DSL and satellite. CenturyLink and EarthLink provide DSL service; neither cover the entire town. Dolores County Commissioner Floyd Cook told the Durango Herald in November that the county courthouse and the local high school, middle school, and elementary school have higher capacity connections, but no ISP provdies the same caliber of Internet access businesses or households. The Emery Telecom project is a welcome relief in a place where locals are starving for faster connections.
“It’s the best thing since pockets on a shirt,” Cook said.
In his press release about the award, U.S. Senator for Colorado Michael Bennet noted that communities in the region need access to high-quality connectivity for economic development purposes, but that the infrastructure isn't there:
In Dove Creek, residents and businesses generally lack access to broadband speeds above 10/1 Mbps, and most critical institutions and businesses lack access to broadband entirely. The regional economy relies heavily on agriculture, energy production, mining, and tourism, which have become increasingly reliant on broadband to stay competitive and reach distant markets.
Dove Creek Town Manager Irvin Frazier told the Colorado Sun, "This is going to be great for our businesses."
More Bang for the Buck
The project will not only improve economic development opportunities and faster connectivity at home for folks living in Dove Creek and Monticello. The additional infrastructure will help increase redundant paths for a region where there are few existing lines to the wider Internet. More populous areas of the state have benefitted from past investment, but this region in Colorado is cut off if there's interruption in one of the few existing lines. In August 2019, Internet access and mobile phone service went down. In 2016, public safety dispatch centers in three counties could not receive calls. In both instances, a fiber optic line had been damaged and there was no redundant path on which data could be rerouted.
A line from Monticello to Dove Creek would be a step toward continuous high-speed Internet infrastructure from Pagosa Springs to Salt Lake City that could back up infrastructure lines that run south and north, [Miriam Gillow-Wiles, executive director of the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments] said.
“It creates a much more secure and redundant network for the region,” she said.
A connection from Monticello to Salt Lake City is already established. But infrastructure between Cortez and Dove Creek needs to be improved, she said.
The new connection between Monticello and Dove Creek will also allow Emery to connect to fiber optic infrastructure in Cahone that connects to Grand Junction. The connection to Grand Junction will create network reliability for residents in Dove Creek and southeast Utah, Johansen said.
“It leverages the Colorado network and the Utah network. ... That middle mile is what makes this project so valuable,” he said.
Read more about the way rural cooperatives are providing fast, affordable, reliable Internet access for people in areas that have been neglected by large corporate ISPs by downloading a copy of our report, Cooperative Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model for the Internet Era.
Image of Hovenweep National Monument near Dove Creek in the public domain.