Tag: "rio blanco county"

Posted April 28, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

There’s a new Thor in town, but instead of lighting up the night sky like the Norse god of thunder, it’ll be lighting up communities in rural Colorado with fiber optic connectivity.

A group of local governments and private partners, led by Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG), recently completed the first phase of Project THOR, a middle mile fiber network that will enable better connectivity in the participating towns, cities, and counties. The network, owned by NWCCOG, provides backhaul to local governments looking to connect public facilities, schools, hospitals, and other community anchor institutions. It’s also available to Internet service providers (ISPs) to serve residents and businesses.

Project THOR brings much needed redundancy to the region’s broadband infrastructure, where previously a single fiber cut could take entire communities’ health and public safety services offline. It also promises great cost savings for localities and ISPs. Perhaps most importantly, the new network gives communities the necessary leverage to improve local connectivity beyond begging the incumbent providers for better broadband. Jon Stavney, executive director of NWCCOG explained on Community Broadband Bits episode 406:

This project allows these local governments to actually have a lever to pull to hopefully affect local service, however they can do that, with whatever partners come to the table . . . They’re able to actually act.

Building Toward a Network

NWCCOG, which is composed of member governments in and around Eagle, Grand, Jackson, Pitkin, and Summit Counties, coordinated broadband efforts in the region even before Project THOR began. A number of years ago, the council invested in a regional plan and hired a broadband coordinator, Nate Walowitz, to offer technical assistance to the member governments.

At the time, communities were taking a variety of approaches to bolster connectivity. Some wanted to provide broadband access directly to residents, like Rio Blanco County which owns an open access Fiber-to-the-Home network....

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Posted April 28, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

The breathtaking mountains of northwest Colorado have long attracted skiers and hikers, but broadband providers haven't found the region's rugged landscape and sparse population as appealing. Enter Project THOR, a middle mile fiber network developed out of a collaboration among local governments and private companies led by the Northwest Colorado Council of Goverments (NWCCOG). Over the last few years, the partners strung together more than 400 miles of fiber to provide reliable and affordable backhaul to municipal facilities, public schools, healthcare systems, and Internet access providers.

This week on the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher talks with Jon Stavney, executive director of NWCCOG, and Evan Biagi, executive vice president of business development for network operator Mammoth Networks, to learn more about the recently completed project. Jon describes past broadband efforts in the region that led into Project THOR. The pair explain how the new middle mile network will allow localities to connect municipal facilities and anchor instutions and how broadband providers or the communities themselves can build off the network to serve residents and businesses. This will improve broadband reliability and affordability in the region, which had previously been plagued by network outages that cut access for hospitals and 911 calls.

Jon and Evan also discuss how the partners lowered project costs by leveraging existing infrastructure. They share some of the challenges involved in designing a network with so many partners. At the end, Jon explains how Project THOR will give communities more opportunities to take action...

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Posted July 16, 2019 by lgonzalez

Rio Blanco County in western Colorado is more than 3,200 square miles with a population of only about 6,400 people in the entire county. Due to the low population density and rural nature of much of the county, large corporate Internet access providers have not felt motivated to invest in broadband access. Thanks to public investment from the county, however, people living in Rio Blanco County are obtaining access to some of the best connectivity in the state. This week, Rio Blanco County’s Communications Director Cody Crooks is at the mic to tell us about their project.

While at the Mountain Connect conference, Christopher and Cody got together to record the interview so we could catch up on the progress of the fiber build. Subscribers in more than 80 percent of premises passed are connecting to the open access network — about double what planners originally anticipated. As Cody explains, folks in the county are “starved” for broadband, the price is right, and two providers offer choice. People are even moving to the county in order to connect to the network.

Cody also gets into some of the other benefits that people are enjoying due to better connectivity. He discussed how they’re funding the investment and the special concerns they have as a governmental entity. Christopher and Cody talk about western Colorado’s project THOR and how Rio Blanco County is involved in the regional initiative to expand affordable rural connectivity.

Check out this promotional video on the network:

Read more about the project's evolution here.

We want your feedback and...

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Posted February 6, 2019 by lgonzalez

The Rio Blanco County Economic Development Department recently published their promotional video to share information about their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. The video highlights some of the benefits the infrastructure is now bringing to the communities of Rangely and Meeker by offering interviews with people from different segments of the population. In addition to county administrators, people in the fields of education, real estate, and business leaders discussed how the open access network is positively impacting their fields.

Check out the video, that runs just under five minutes:

Rio Blanco County Broadband Initiative from Align Multimedia on Vimeo.

 

Getting Out the News

The video is an excellent tool to help Rio Blanco County spread the word about their publicly owned infrastructure that will help them stay competitive. One of the recurring themes in the video and from other rural communities throughout Colorado and elsewhere, remains the ability to live and work in an environment unspoiled by urbanization while still having access to connectivity that rivals or surpasses that in urban areas. As Rangely Town Manager Lisa Pierling states:

"You can have the best of both worlds. You can have all of the modernization you need to run your business, but you can still take a step back and just enjoy a little slower paced life than rush to work, rush home."

Learn more about the Rio Blanco County FTTH project by reviewing our coverage.

Posted November 9, 2017 by lgonzalez

Just days ago, voters in more than a dozen Colorado communities chose to opt out of SB 152 the way Rio Blanco County did in 2014. The rural western county has since started connecting residents and businesses to high-quality Internet access via its publicly owned open access fiber optic infrastructure. Due to high demand, they recently announced that they’re making changes in their business plan and taking a more direct role in operations.

Until now, Rio Blanco County has worked with Colorado Fiber Community (CFC) under a three-layered plan in which CFC contracts with the county to perform maintenance and operations on the network that the county owns. Local ISPs LAI and Cimarron use the infrastructure to deliver services to the public and work directly with subscribers. The county has decided to end its agreement with CFC and take over operations and maintenance.

Too Much Good Internet

The popularity of the project created its own problems when the demand for service far outpaced estimates. CFC budgeted $1.5 million to fund connections in a timely manner but quickly depleted those funds. The county had expected a take rate of 40 percent, but this September CFC anticipated a take rate of 75 - 80 percent.

Without additional funding to expedite installations, CFC would have been limited to connecting 10 - 15 premises per month. Such a rate would only meet about ten percent of the expected demand, when considering more than 100 premises had been connected in August.

Rather than dramatically slow the rate of installations, Rio Blanco County Commissioners decided in September that the county would pay for the first $1,160 required to connect each premise. Property owners are responsible for any additional costs. The Commissioners voted to use reserves to fund the remaining drops.

County Commissioner Si Woodruff told the Herald Times earlier this year:

“We promised the people we’d...

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Posted July 14, 2017 by lgonzalez

Just like cities around the county, rural communities are all unique. Nevertheless, there are some common steps they can take to improve the likelihood of achieving better local connectivity. The Arizona Rural Development Council and the Local First Arizona Foundation are hosting a free webinar series and on July 26th, the topic will be “Can You Hear Me Now? Strategies for Rural Broadband Access.”

The webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, July 26th, at 10:00 AM Pacific.

The webinar description:

As we progress into a world driven by technology the need for broadband access is hardly an option, it is a necessity. During this month's webinar, we will hear from four highly experienced professionals advocating for broadband access in rural communities around the state and the nation. 

Attendees of this webinar will learn:

  • Steps communities can make to ensure they are fiber ready
  • Alternative solutions to broadband access
  • How to work regionally or within a county
  • How to leverage any and all existing resources
  • Unique factors of costs to broadband deployment on tribal lands

On July 26th, presenters will include:

Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities

Blake Mobley, Rio Blanco County, Colorado’s IT Director

Belinda Nelson, Gila River Telecommunications and member of the Gila River Pima tribe

Bruce Holdridge, Gila River Telecommunications

 

You can register for the free event online.

 

Posted December 13, 2016 by lgonzalez

Residents and businesses in Rangely and Meeker are starting to feel the speed of the Rio Blanco County Broadband Project. The network is now offering fiber connectivity to the northwest Colorado towns.

Options At Last

The network brings choice and speed to Rio Blanco County, reports the Herald Times:

In just three years, Meeker and Rangely have gone from having a single choice for limited bandwidth internet to multiple local companies offering some of the biggest bandwidth packages available in the nation.

Subscribers have the option to choose between two providers which are offering services via the open access infrastructure. Local Access Internet (LAI) and Cimarron Telecommunications are both local providers that began offering wireless Internet access to subscribers before the project commenced. LAI also offers technical troubleshooting for PCS, laptops and cell phones.

Both companies offer symmetrical Gigabit Internet access (1,000 Megabits per second download and upload) for $70 per month. They match each others’ prices on two lower tiers also: $40 per month for 25 Mbps download / 5 Mbps upload and $55 per month for 100 Mbps download and 25 Mbps upload. Cimarron and LAI still offer fixed wireless packages.

We spoke with Bob Knight at Cimarron who told us that the 100 Mbps / 25 Mbps tier was the most popular with their subscribers, who are often families that run multiple devices simultaneously. While businesses are requesting the service, residents who have had little options except expensive and unreliable satellite are clearly hungry for better Internet access.

Bob was quick to point out that he expects the network to be an enticing economic development tool in Rio Blanco County. He says the quality of life is already good there and pointed out that there is ample hiking, fishing, biking, and other outdoor recreation. With high-quality Internet access, he hopes to see more entrepreneurs and families looking for clean air and beautiful country.

How Did They Get To Here?

In 2014, Rio Blanco County...

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Posted October 19, 2016 by lgonzalez

Rio Blanco County, Colorado, is moving along nicely with its Fiber-to-the-Curb infrastructure investment. Readers will recall that two years ago, voters in the mostly rural county in the northwest corner of the state reclaimed local authority and soon after the community commenced plans to improve connectivity.

In a recent interview of KDNK’s Geekspeak, Rio Blanco County’s IT Director Blake Mobley described details of the project as it moves forward. He also describes how people in the county are hungry for better Internet access. The guys touch on local control and how several other communities in Colorado are voting on the right to make their own telecommunications decisions this election season. From the show website:

On this year’s ballot, voters in Carbondale, Silt, Parachute and Garfield County will decide whether or not to opt out of restrictions on local government control over high speed Internet. Blake Mobley is IT Director for Rio Blanco County. Blake talks with Matt McBrayer and Gavin Dahl about Rio Blanco’s own ballot initiative, and the county’s decision to invest in infrastructure that is now delivering gigabit fiber to homes and businesses in Rangely and Meeker.

Christopher also interviewed Blake back in 2015 for episode #158 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Posted September 26, 2016 by Scott

The Rio Blanco County's fiber optic and wireless network project continues to make steady progress with services likely available in some areas by January. 

County IT director Blake Mobley offered the update at a recent meeting of the Meeker board of trustees. Asked by the trustees when broadband access would be available to residents, Mobley said, “I think it’s very likely local will be lit in 2016,” according to a report in the Times Herald.

Work In Progress

Currently, Rio Blanco County is building out an open access network in the towns of Meeker (pop. 2,500) and Rangely (pop. 2,400) and fixed wireless system across a county-wide tower network. The county plans to build infrastructure to the curb and allow private providers to finish the connections to residential and business customers from curb to premise. Cost of the first stage is estimated at about $13 million. Rio Blanco County has a total population of 6,200 people over 3,000 square miles or an average of 2 people per square mile.

In a recent report to the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Mobley said the fiber project will offer several tiers of Internet service, including 1 Gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second or Mbps) symmetrical to residential and business customers in Meeker and Rangely. Gigabit service from Cimarron Telecommunications, one of the first providers to offer services over the county network, will cost $70 per month.

Meanwhile, most rural subscribers who are outside of Meeker and Rangely, will have access to Internet speeds of 25 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload with no data cap over the fixed wireless system, Mobley told us.

The Rio Blanco County fiber network will provide residents and businesses in Meeker and Rangely an alternative to DSL service from Centurylink and Strata.

“The intent is to reach as close to 100 percent of...

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Posted May 23, 2016 by lgonzalez

When communities decide to proceed with publicly owned infrastructure, they often aim for open access models. Open access allows more than one service provider to offer services via the same infrastructure. The desire is to increase competition, which will lower prices, improve services, and encourage innovation.

It seems straight forward, but open access can be more complex than one might expect. In addition to varying models, there are special challenges and financing considerations that communities need to consider.

In order to centralize our information on open access, we’ve created the new Open Access Networks resource page. We’ve gathered together some of our best reference material, including links to previous MuniNetworks.org stories, articles from other resources, relevant Community Broadband Bits podcast episodes, case studies, helpful illustrations, and more.

We cover: 

  • Open Access Arrangements
  • Financing Open Access Networks
  • Challenges for Open Access Networks
  • U.S. Open Access Networks
  • Planned Open Access Networks

Check it out and share the link. Bookmark it!

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