Better speed, more competition
By Mark Reaman
The towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte are both participating financially in an effort to get improved broadband service to the north end of the valley by early this year. Much faster, more reliable broadband capability could be on-line in the first quarter of 2018.
Region 10, a collection of Western Slope organizations with a mission to address economic development possibilities in the area, has been working on improved broadband in other areas of western Colorado and it is now looking at assisting Gunnison County.
Basically, the organization will use existing fiber to get additional internet capability to Gunnison. From there, the idea is to extend the additional service up to the Crested Butte marshal’s office, a so-called Carrier Neutral Location (CNL). It should be live at that location by early 2018.
Town manager Dara MacDonald said that this would allow for anchor institutions to obtain service directly through the CNL and purchase affordable service directly through Region 10. MacDonald said this would also allow for more competitive pricing for internet service providers (ISPs) that do not own their own fiber.
MacDonald said the overall goal is to bring more internet access at more competitive pricing to the north end of the valley. At this time, Region 10 will be leasing unlit fiber from CenturyLink so this solution does not improve redundancy, but does help with providing more options and competition.
Crested Butte has already set aside money for the project but also needed to budget an additional $3,000 in 2017 for a total of $37,400 to complete this project. The council agreed to that expenditure.
David Clayton of Mt. Crested Butte told that town council that the Colorado Department of Local Affairs had money set aside for such broadband projects and was supporting the Region 10 effort.
“If you remember, about 18 months ago the one line that comes into the county with broadband from Montrose got cut and we lost everything from internet to cell phone service,” said Clayton. “It is so important to improve that going forward and that is on the overall plan. There will be internet redundancy for Gunnison County coming from a new microwave link over Monarch Pass that the Met Rec District is assisting with by allowing microwave antennas on their towers. That will bring some redundancy for [Gunnison Valley Hospital] and Western [State Colorado University] and in the future for the Region 10 effort.” He said there is also a possibility of further redundancy as fiber lines are realigned as part of the road realignment over Cottonwood Pass.
Clayton said the Region 10 effort won’t directly improve redundancy but will provide increased bandwidth by bringing an additional 10 gigabits per second via the Region 10 service. This improvement won’t be tied to any one provider, so in theory, Clayton said having this open, available bandwidth at the Carrier Neutral Sites could incentivize the entry of new ISPs or the expansion of current ISPs, thus allowing for more competition.
Clayton said Mt. Crested Butte isn’t ready to agree to bring up the faster line from Crested Butte in part because the town’s utilities are all buried and installation would be extremely costly. The most current estimate for just getting the line from Crested Butte up to Mt. Crested Butte is about $300,000 with the Mt. Crested Butte cost share being about $150,000. That would pay for installing and/or activating dark fiber from the Crested Butte Marshal’s Office to the Mt. Crested Butte Water and Sanitation facility, a new buried line from Water and Sanitation to the Rasta Lot on the north side of the main Crested Butte Mountain Resort parking area, and installing fiber in an existing conduit from the Rasta Lot to Town Hall, since the conduit was installed as part of the Rec Path project.
“But having a high-speed connection into the upper valley is important,” Clayton said. “Any ISP can be part of that connection and sell it to individual homeowners and businesses.”
Clayton said the cost for each municipality would be about $36,000. “I think it is important for the future to do this step,” he told the council. “Getting it up to the Marshal’s Office as a CNL is a benefit to the upper valley. It brings a much larger pipeline so I think it is worth the town of Mt. Crested Butte participating. Having a CNL in Crested Butte could function for most of what is wanted up here. Just getting it up here sets us up for the future.”
Clayton noted that according to the Local Technology Planning Team members, Western State Colorado University was the biggest user of broadband in the valley. While daytime use of broadband was focused on academic endeavors, the use in the evening and nighttime hours was primarily for entertainment purposes such as Netflix.
Acting town manager Karl Trujillo told Clayton the town could find the money to fund the project and the council agreed to allocate the money toward the project.