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Southwest Colorado Has a Broadband Plan

September 18, 2023

Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado has created a broadband roadmap to help expand broadband connectivity in rural Southwest Colorado. Shak Powers, project manager for Region 9, explains why broadband is important for the economy, as well as remote education and telehealthcare. By Ilana Newman. This story is sponsored by Big-O Tires and Keesee Motors

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High-speed internet is vital for businesses and residents in Southwest Colorado. Without it, businesses can't run credit or debit cards and residents can't connect to telehealth care or remote education, which was a big issue for rural areas during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Region 9 Economic Development District created a broadband roadmap to help expand high-speed internet for Region 9, which includes Montezuma, La Plata, Archuleta, Dolores and San Juan counties. You're watching the "Local NEWS Network" brought to you by Keesee Motors and Big O Tires. I'm Connor Shreve.

Two times this year there's been a fiber strike because of the lack of redundancy, the long haul is provided between Durango and Archuleta County on one of the old century tail lines, it was struck during a road construction operation and took down all communications in Archuleta county and part of La Plata County because the towers that provide cellular also run off that single fiber optic cable. So in addition to not being able to run the economy, they also didn't have access to things like 911.

Redundancy for broadband means that the fiber optic cable creates a loop to protect from potential damage. If damaged, the connection continues coming from both sides of the damage.

So we're working with our partner, our neighboring regions, region 10, which is the six counties to the north of us and region eight, which is the San Luis Valley. Everybody's working on the same Middle Mile concepts and we'd like to get a continuous ring of fiber along I-70 from Denver to Grand Junction, down to Cortez, back over across Wolf Creek, over to Walsenburg and up I-25, and create a ring around Southwest Colorado that would reach Denver, Salt Lake, Phoenix, and Albuquerque as well through those branches we mentioned earlier. Also, it wouldn't be uncommon for the Southwest to have some kind of a fire and if that was to burn communication, say between here and Rico, the people south of Rico would be covered by routes going to Phoenix and Albuquerque, and the people north of Rico would have their routes covered by services going back to Denver and Salt Lake.

Region 9 applied for $66 million from the National Telecommunication Infrastructure Administration to develop Middle Mile connections like this. Middle Mile refers to the connections between communities. While Last Mile refers to connections between homes and businesses.

A lot of our area lacks the Middle Mile infrastructure necessary to get really high speeds at the place of work or somebody's residence. They're not receiving the backhaul speeds that they could be, speeds to wherever a major server is like Denver, Salt Lake, those types of areas.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in 2021 provides more than $42 billion for broadband deployment in rural areas. This money is vital for broadband because without the subsidy, there would be no incentive for internet service providers to lay fiber optic cables in rural areas.

And so if you build five miles of fiber optic cable, the number of homes along that five miles that take your services that's called the take rate. And because of the expense of bearing or even building aerial with fiber optic networks, no internet service provider can get the return on investment necessary to build to those homes.

Region 9 recently learned it did not receive the funding for Middle Mile Construction. It is currently looking for other funding options, but many of the communities in Region 9 are broadband ready and have a plan to expand broadband across the southwest Colorado area. You can learn more about this story and others at Thank you for watching this edition of the "Local NEWS Network." I'm Connor Shreve.


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