Josh Nowak: The future of broadband | SteamboatToday.com

Josh Nowak: The future of broadband







This is an open letter to Governor Hickenlooper and the decision makers for Routt and Moffat counties.

As you know, on Thursday, Jan. 12, Governor Hickenlooper delivered his annual State of the State address.

Hickenlooper spent a few minutes of his speech discussing broadband in rural Colorado, announcing the "creation of a broadband office to help us get from 70 to percent to 85 percent coverage by the time we leave office and 100 percent by 2020."

ZIRKEL Wireless would like to take a stand and say that Governor Hickenlooper's vision of 100 percent coverage by 2020 is feasible.And it can be done for much less than most of our decision makers think.

ZIRKEL is a locally owned and operated wireless internet service provider in Steamboat. We have been serving Northwest Colorado with internet service since 2001 and are proud to have the largest broadband network in the area.  

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Most people I ask about broadband don't know the difference between a wireless connection and a wired connection; they often think wireless means WiFi. The reality is that most of us don't care how the internet is delivered to our home; we just want it to work when we need it and to know it's fast enough to provide a quality experience.

Fiber is often touted as the end-all solution that cannot be beat. I am sure that you have heard of Google Fiber? Did you know that in October 2016 Google Fiber halted its rollout in 10 cities and laid off a large number of staff? Google it.

With our mountainous terrain, running fiber to every nook and cranny of Colorado will require a tremendous amount of resources — estimated at over $90 million for Routt County alone. Wireless and fiber technologies can be combined into a hybrid solution, and together, they can make Hickenlooper's 2020 broadband vision a reality while saving Colorado taxpayers millions.

One solution is for local electric providers — like Yampa Valley Electric Association — to work with existing wireless providers and middle-mile carriers to deliver multi-hundred megabit speeds to every home and business within their coverage areas.

Other solutions include ZIRKEL working with anchor institutions and government entities to connect their buildings, to offer public WiFi to parks and downtown areas, to install or upgrade wireless security or camera systems, and more. 

Another solution would be to appoint broadband coordinators for each region within the state, all of whom report back to the Governor's Broadband Committee. Our team has identified a large list of possible tower sites that would expand coverage, but obtaining access has been difficult. 

ZIRKEL and YVEA have begun discussing opportunities to expand broadband in the area. One concern for both ZIRKEL and YVEA is obtaining access to Farwell Mountain in Clark. Our local U.S. Forest Service office is estimating three years to reclassify the tower to allow for commercial use.

North Routt severely lacks broadband services. The North Routt Community Charter School tried to launch a program to enable their students to complete homework from outside of school. The initiative failed because more than 50 percent of students lacked adequate broadband capacity to make the program a success.

Other areas within Routt and Moffat counties that are lacking broadband connectivity are Toponas, County Road 16 in Stagecoach, Mt. Harris Canyon in Routt County and Hamilton, Lay and Maybell in Moffat County.

Ultimately, we would like to invite our elected community and local decision-makers to the table for an open conversation about the opportunities present within a hybrid model and discuss efforts to get every resident within Routt and Moffat counties connected with fast and reliable broadband. 

Josh Nowak

ZIRKEL Wireless operations manager

Steamboat Springs