Routt County and city of Steamboat close to naming broadband consultant | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County and city of Steamboat close to naming broadband consultant

— Local officials are still working with Century Link this week to sort through the aftermath of the July 6 and 7 Internet and phone outages in Routt County, but in the meantime, Routt County commissioners are close to approving a broadband consultant who will be counted on to identify strategies for closing the gaps in connectivity across the county.

When construction crews working on improvements to Colorado Highway 9 south of Kremmling in Grand County July 6 cut fiber optic cable along the highway, it led to an outage of phone and Internet communication that began at 2:30 p.m. and continued until 11:30 p.m. in parts of Steamboat Springs. The outage also disrupted 911 emergency until early the next morning. And emergency calls, if there were any, were not automatically re-routed to the communications center in Craig, as expected.

Routt County Communications Supervisor Sharon Clever said Monday she still does not have definite confirmation of whether any 911 calls were missed that afternoon and evening. However, because the comm center on the west side of Steamboat was receiving some cell phone calls during the outage, and because a technician from Century Link manually reset the 911 service, she's hopeful there were no emergency calls that were missed.

"I met with Century Link on Thursday, but I still haven't gotten anything (definitive) back from them," Clever said. "There's still a lot of discussion going on."

Coincidentally, even as the outage was taking place, the county, the city of Steamboat Springs and other institutions — including Northwest Colorado Broadband — were taking steps to land a state grant from the Department of Local Affairs that will enable them to engage a consultant who will be charged with identifying broadband service deficiencies here and outlining projects and public-private partnerships to address them.

The County commissioners were expected to vote Tuesday in favor of retaining NEO Fiber of Glenwood Springs, however that action was to be tabled as of Monday because of an amendment to a grant from the state Department of Local Affairs, expected to cover half the $48,000 cost of the study.

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"Diane Kruse, of NEO Fiber, really convinced us that she's the person to lead us through this problem," County Manager Tom Sullivan said. "Her company has worked all over rural Colorado, has worked closely with the state legislature and (has) a close relationship with a national engineering firm."

In addition to clarifying what steps Northwest Colorado could take to ensure it has redundancy from the west in terms of avoiding future inadvertent cuts in fiber optic cables, Sullivan said, NEO Fiber would be counted on to describe methods of connecting local governmental facilities in downtown Steamboat Springs with Colorado Mountain College, Yampa Valley Electric, the public schools in Strawberry Park and perhaps a new high school on the city's west side, as well as the hospital and Casey's Pond senior living center, among others.

DOLA is expected to cover half the $48,000 consultant's fee with another $15,000 coming from NWCB. Along with the county and city, YVEA, Yampa Valley Medical Center, Steamboat Schools and Colorado Mountain College are each being counted on to kick in $1,500.

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