Tag: "colorado"

Posted July 24, 2018 by lgonzalez

When you hear founder and CEO Matt Larson talk about his company Vistabeam Internet, you’ll understand he and his team received the 2018 Provider of the Year Award at Mountain Connect. At the conference in June, Matt sat down with Christopher to discuss what it’s like to be in his shoes — starting up and operating a wireless Internet service company primarily in the rural areas in some of the most rural areas of the country.

It’s been about a decade and a half since Matt’s company began serving its first customers as Skybeam. The endeavor soon became Vistabeam and continued to expand throughout the areas where Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming meet. Vistabeam continued to grow, and now the company coverage area spans approximately 40,000 square miles. Matt explains his motivation behind starting Vistabeam and widening the service area as a way to connect people without Internet access and to bring a little competition to areas where incumbents needed “inspiration.”

In the interview, Matt describes some of the practicalities of working in the field and how his company has dealt with similar unique challenges. He also shares the way Vistabeam has evolved as technology has improved over the years and the differences between providing service in extreme rural areas and more densely populated areas. In this interview, you’ll go from policy to practicality and learn about the experiences of a local provider.

Read the transcript for this show here.

This show is 42 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is...

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Posted July 17, 2018 by lgonzalez

An increasing number of local communities in Colorado are finding ways to improve rural connectivity. The Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), a cooperative bringing electricity to approximately 28,000 members in southwest Colorado, is in the midst of Elevate, their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network that will connect all co-op members. We’ve brought co-op Board Members John Gavan and Brad Harding on the show this week to talk about the project and DMEA.

This conversation describes how and why the project got started and the plans for the future. Cooperatives are member organizations and this story is an example of a member-driven project that started when the community chose to improve their future. Significant employment losses in the region had the potential for widespread ripple effects and community members saw high-quality connectivity as a must for economic development.

John and Brad also discuss how the project is part of a larger effort to cope with the loss of electricity demand due to local job losses in the coal industry and a desire to stay on the cusp of innovation. With new infrastructure, the cooperative is investigating ways to offer such enhancements as electric vehicle charging and energy storage. They’ve also been taking a second look at local renewable energy generation facilities and wholesale contracts. DMEA and its members are taking new steps in self-reliance.

DMEA has produced a short video on the Elevate project:

Read more about how cooperatives are bringing broadband to rural America in our 2017 policy brief, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model For The Internet Era.

This show is 31 minutes long...

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Posted July 16, 2018 by lgonzalez

In the wake of the FCC’s 2017 decision to repeal federal network neutrality protections, more communities than ever are considering their role in local connectivity. As it turns out, their citizens are thinking about it, too. In the case of Larimer County, Colorado, almost half of respondents to their recent survey replied that they want their county government to play a part in rural broadband.

Surprising/Not Surprising Results

We spoke with Drew Davis, Jacob Castillo, and Mark Pfaffinger in June to get an idea of some of the results of the survey and hear more about the county’s plans. You can listen to episode 311 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to hear the conversation. Approximately 32 percent of those who were sent the survey responded, which is a higher than average response rate and shows that people in Larimer County feel strongly about the issue and want their opinions heard.

At a July County Commission meeting, Davis presented detailed survey findings. Results reflected that 49 percent of respondents want the county to play an active part in broadband deployment:

  • 33 percent of respondents want the county to offer services directly to the public; and
  • 16 percent want the county to deploy the infrastructure and lease it to private sector ISPs

Only 11 percent want the county to leave efforts entirely to the private sector, while 18 percent replied that they believe the county should try to encourage private sector providers to build a fiber optic network in Larimer County. Another 20 percent had no opinion.

In addition to using broadband for common applications, including social media, email, and streaming online movies and television, Davis, Castillo, and Pfaffinger were surprised to see the high numbers of people interested in exploring other ways to use high-quality Internet access. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they either work from home or would like to but can't due to the low-quality of their connections. There were also surprisingly high numbers of people who would like to use the Internet for entrepreneurial purposes. They were...

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Posted July 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

Another small rural community in Colorado has recently taken an important step toward better connectivity for the community. The Town of Mountain Village issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) late in June to find a firm to conduct a Broadband Assessment and Feasibility Study. Responses are due August 10, 2018.

Read the RFP here.

Assess and Propose

The Town of Mountain Village (TMV) has an existing municipal cable network that offers Internet access, voice, and video. Community leaders want to engage a firm to assess the current infrastructure, consider improvements over the next few years, and make recommendations for improvements.

In addition to searching for ways to improve service and pinpoint any potential adoption and service gaps, the consultants will also be expected to devise a broadband strategy. TMV community leaders understand that the future will require better infrastructure than they now possess. The city wants to learn about the possible outlook for Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), potential partnerships, smart policies, and potential funding sources.

Town of Mountain Village

With only approximately 1,300 full-time residents and an additional non-resident property owner population, Mountain Village has similar qualities to some of the other rural communities we’ve covered. Penobscot, Maine, where seasonal visitors swell the population and the need for better connectivity, recently issued an RFI in their search for firms to help improve local Internet access. In addition to offering services to the general public, TMV's existing network connects municipal facilities, including water and wastewater, public transportation, public safety, parks and recreation, municipal offices, the housing authority properties.

As the name implies, TMV sits within the mountains. At the base of the Telluride Ski Resort in the southwest corner of the state, TMV adopted a free gondola and chondola (chair gondola) system as public transportation in 1996. Cars are still allowed in the town, but parking is limited to two garages and not permitted...

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Posted June 26, 2018 by lgonzalez

The State of Colorado has made some changes in the past few years that are improving broadband deployment, especially in rural areas. In this episode of the podcast, Christopher talks about some of those changes with Tony Neal-Graves, Executive Director of the Colorado Broadband Office. While Christopher was in Vail at the Mountain Connect event, he and Tony sat down to have a conversation about broadband and deployment in Colorado.

In addition to discussing his shift from the private to public sector, Tony gets into changes in state law, including last session’s adjustments to Colorado’s right of first refusal. Tony describes what kinds of conversations he's had with local communities and acknowledges that Colorado communities are especially good at working together to solve connectivity issues. Chris and Tony also talk about the growing role of cooperatives and state versus FCC data collection. In addition to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), which helps fund local broadband deployment, Colorado seems to be making some smart moves that keep raising the bar on how to fast-track smart broadband deployment.

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Read the transcript for this show here....

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Posted June 25, 2018 by lgonzalez

On June 18th, PCMag came out with its list of “The Fastest ISPs of 2018.” The analysis looks at ISP performance in several different ways and provides a range of different side-by-side comparisons. The results prove that publicly owned infrastructure has in important role in bringing high-quality Internet access to Americans.

The Dakotas' Co-ops Rock

When taking a wide angle lens view of the fastest U.S. states results, we noticed that two of the top four states with the fastest ISPs were North Dakota and South Dakota. Rural cooperatives in these two states have excelled at deploying high-quality Internet access via fiber optic infrastructure. As a result, North Dakota and South Dakota has some of the most complete coverage of Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet access and gigabit FTTH in the country. Notice all the coverage on our cooperative map:

small-2018-06-Cooperative-Gigabit-Fiber-Map-Update.jpg

Check out a larger map here.

Like rural electrification in the 1930s, cooperatives are taking on the task of bringing high-speed Internet service to members in rural areas. They live and work in the areas they serve. Big ISPs don’t consider sparsely populated areas suitable investment opportunities, so electric and telephone co-ops are repeating the approach of the 1930s, but this time with fiber networks. Dickey Rural Telephone Cooperative in North Dakota and Venture Communications Cooperative in South Dakota are only a few that have worked to get their members connected.

To learn more about how rural cooperatives have helped rural communities, including North Dakota and South Dakota, check out our policy brief, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model for the Internet Era. We also had an interesting conversation during...

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Posted June 21, 2018 by lgonzalez

In 2016, El Paso County, Colorado, voters chose to opt out of the state’s restrictive SB 152. They are now allowed to use publicly owned infrastructure to offer connectivity to the public or to work with a partner who wants to do so. Now, the community is working on a Broadband Strategic Plan and asking residents and businesses to help. In order to get an idea of what connectivity is like across the county, they’ve created online surveys and are seeking input.

“We’d like as many residents and businesses as possible to complete the surveys so we have a clearer picture of where the needs are greatest,” said Jeff Eckhart, Executive Director of El Paso County’s Information Technology Division. Eckhart added, “we’ll also be interviewing business leaders, public safety agencies and other government agencies at the same time.”

As the county develops its Strategic Plan, they are also working with neighbor Teller County to improve connectivity in several areas that span both counties — Ute Pass and Cripple Creek.

The survey will be open until June 30th.

To take the residential survey go online to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EPCResidential

Business owners and managers should go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EPCBusiness

Posted June 19, 2018 by lgonzalez

Late last year, Larimer County, Colorado, commissioned a broadband feasibility study to examine the possible solutions toward better connectivity across its more than 2,600 square miles. This week, three guests from Larimer County are here to discuss the community’s plan as it’s taking shape, Broadband Program Manager Drew Davis, Director of Economic and Workforce Development Jacob Castillo, and CIO Mark Pfaffinger. The interview was one of several Christopher conducted while at the Mountain Connect conference in Vail.

Drew, Jacob, and Mark discuss the results they’ve recently received from phase one of the feasibility study, the residential survey. They didn’t enter into the study with any preconceived notions, but the people of Larimer County still found a way to surprised county officials. In addition to confirming their belief that locals are an entrepreneurial sort, Drew, Jacob, and Mark were surprised at the wide range of people who expressed a desire for high-quality connectivity and the different ways they want to use broadband. Approximately 32 percent of residents responded to the survey, which was more than twice the expected rate; clearly, this is an important issue to locals.

Christopher, Drew, Jacob, and Mark also ponder the role of the county in bringing better Internet access to both residents and businesses. They intend to explore the many options available to them and continue the spirit of interdepartmental collaboration that has served them well so far. Larimer County leaders have included a broadband component in their strategic plan because they see how better local connectivity has become a necessity for the kind of life people expect there.

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Read the transcript for this episode here.

You can download this mp3 file directly...

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Posted June 13, 2018 by lgonzalez

Cortez, Colorado, has been serving public facilities, community anchor institutions (CAIs), and businesses officially since 2011. In 2015, they expanded to bring fiber connectivity to more businesses; today, seven providers offer services on their open access infrastructure. Now, Cortez is ready to take the next step by offering retail services to residents as an ISP; they’re engaged in a pilot project that will help them determine the best way to move forward. This week, General Services Director Rick Smith joins Christopher to discuss past, present, and future in this town of approximately 9,000.

The guys met up at Mountain Connect in Vail, where they’re joining many other industry and policy professionals discuss infrastructure, connectivity, and policy. While at the conference, Rick and the city received the Community Project of the Year Award.

Rick was on the show in 2014 to describe how this rural community incrementally built its network with local investment and state contributions. This time, Cortez is considering ways to shrink its digital divide and examining funding through ways other than traditional revenue bonding. They’ve also been working on regional efforts to help neighbors get the kind of connectivity needed for economic development. Rick describes how the outdoor equipment retailer Osprey has set up its headquarters in Cortez -- first on the list of necessities was not physical real estate, but the ability to access dark fiber.

As Cortez looks at challenges to achieve their goal of citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), they’re considering inventive and methodical ways to reduce costs. They are committed to bringing high-quality Internet access to every citizen in Cortez because they realize that, without action, residents face a potential monopoly provider.

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

...

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Posted June 13, 2018 by Hannah Rank

The results of a broadband feasibility study are in for two northern Colorado towns weighing whether to establish municipally run high-speed Internet service. Though the overall recommendations are exploratory, they include hooking up the city’s main resources to fiber and adopting broadband friendly policies, with the possibility of expansion to Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) services down the line. 

Weighing the Options

Consultants offered a series of recommendations, all of which involve setting up legislation that incentivizes investment and reduces installation costs, such as a dig once policy, and connecting city infrastructure to fiber. The study suggested three types of actions with varying degrees of involvement from the local government:

1. The city could attempt to persuade incumbent providers to invest in faster, more reliable Internet services.


2. Enter into some sort of public-private partnership in which the cities and the private ISP partner/s co-invest in creating a fiber gig service. 


3. Build a municipally run FTTP network.


With any of the options, NEO reps stressed the goal of getting everyone in the town to a gig, what NEO CEO Diane Kruse described as the “gold standard” of capacity.  

The consultants affirmed that an FTTP setup would be financially feasible under the right circumstances (found on page 68 of the report) that include a threshold 30 percent take rate for Greeley and 35 percent for Windsor within three years, and at least $5 per customer utility fees. The utility fee model of funding deployment entails customers paying a monthly surcharge to go towards maintenance and construction of the network. With this model, when a higher number of subscribers connect, the fee usually decreases.

In Greeley, to get things like traffic lights, smart meters, and municipal buildings hooked in with fiber, the cost would top off at around $3.7 million, provided  they utilize the nearly 18 miles of existing fiber. If the community chooses to deploy the entire network from scratch, NEO Connect estimates the project would run approximately $8 million. In Windsor, the costs would be approximately $260,000 and $1.7 million, respectively. With a 30 percent expected take rate,...

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