$2.2M project bringing more affordable broadband to Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

$2.2M project bringing more affordable broadband to Steamboat

A homegrown broadband project is close to delivering on its promise of making Steamboat a better-connected place to live and work.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The newly completed $2.2 million fiber optic trunk line, which spans the width of Steamboat Springs, may already be on the verge of delivering on its promise of extending increased and more affordable broadband capacity to businesses and households in the city.

Evan Biagi of Mammoth Networks confirmed Thursday his company has contracted to manage the new fiber optic trunk line. And Mammoth is currently working with a "last-mile internet" provider interested in tapping into the new telecommunications infrastructure in Steamboat.

The new company's role would be to deliver more bandwidth at lower prices than local businesses, institutions and private customers have previously had access to.

"We are in discussions with an entity that is highly interested in coming into Steamboat and using the trunk line to help them build a business case to start services in town," Mammoth's Vice President of Colorado Operations Evan Biagi said. 

Already, the new high-speed open access trunk line is paying dividends for the five community governments and institutions that came together to join Northwest Colorado Broadband, which was built with the help of a $748,195 state grant secured by Routt County.

Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan, who is also the board chairman of the nonprofit Northwest Colorado Broadband, said the new trunk line is not only allowing county government to enjoy greatly increased broadband capacity without having to pay more for it, but it's also linking county facilities from the downtown courthouse to the justice center, sheriff's office and even the county road shop on the west side of Steamboat Springs.

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"Three years ago, Routt County was buying 10 megabits (of bandwidth) per second for $1,000 per month," Sullivan said. "When we got the carrier-neutral location, we were able to buy $140 megabits per second for $1,000, and now, with the new system in place, we're purchasing 300 megabits per second and still paying $1,000."

Other members of the consortium including the city of Steamboat Springs, Yampa Valley Medical Center, Yampa Valley Electric Association and Steamboat Springs School District are enjoying similar benefits.

And the increased bandwidth being used by all five members is expected to drive lower prices throughout the core of the community.

"This is what we intended from the beginning," Sullivan said, "to make it cheaper across the community. The more bandwidth you're buying, the lower the price per unit."

The new trunk line, which runs from the electric cooperative to the west and to the proximity of the U.S. Forest Service offices at the other end of town, was designed to make it economical for a last-mile provider to connect.

Where the trunk line runs in the alley between Oak Street and Lincoln Avenue, for example, there are frequent connection nodes to make it economical for a last-mile provider to tap into. The same is true of laterals that run off of the trunkline to reach deeper into the community.

Biagi, who lives here, called the accomplishment of the five community partners in Northwest Colorado Broadband "truly extraordinary."

"I travel the state," Biagi said, "and the Northwest Colorado Broadband Group here is a model being looked at by other communities around the state."

Sullivan is optimistic that eventually the new trunk line and the collaborations it inspires will help to push improved bandwidth out into rural areas of Routt County.

"We're building a foundation," Biagi said. "The model that NCB is putting forward is still in its infancy. I think there are future phases to come, and those phases are going to help to attract providers that will give us choices and better competition. I think we're headed in the right direction."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

Broadband terms

The middle mile is a segment of network infrastructure between the backbone of the Internet and last-mile providers

The last mile provider delivers internet broadband services to the end-users, or customers.

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