Routt County broadband plan could be ready in less than three months | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County broadband plan could be ready in less than three months

NEO Fiber CEO Diane Kruse spoke to a group of about 20 people at Centennial Hall Tuesday about the county's efforts to create a broadband plan that would improve internet service for businesses and residents across Routt County.

— Routt County residents can expect to hear details of a new plan to expand broadband Internet services in as little as three months.

NEO Fiber CEO Diane Kruse spoke to about 20 people interested in the plan during an informational meeting last week at Centennial Hall, saying she expected her consulting firm to work quickly to develop options for the community.

"As our existing networks are somewhat maxed out, and our broadband use is doubling, we need to do something," Kruse said. "This problem is not going away."

NEO Fiber was hired by Routt County with funding primarily from the Department of Local Affairs, as well as Northwest Colorado Broadband, Steamboat Springs School District, the city of Steamboat Springs, Yampa Valley Medical Center and Yampa Valley Electric Association.

Abundant, affordable broadband is essential to the community for a number of reasons, including healthcare, schools, businesses and entertainment, according to Kruse.

"Broadband touches every part and parcel of our lives," she said.

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Kruse shared several examples of why the use of broadband has increased so significantly, including the use of reverse classrooms, in which students spend more time watching lectures and using computers at home.

Television via the Internet has also risen in popularity — Neilson reported in December that online viewership had increased 60 percent in the previous quarter, while television viewing had declined 4 percent.

"Instead of using broadcast TV as our primary source of television at home, more and more, we're using over-the-top applications like Hulu and Netflix," Kruse said.

Telecommuting is also on the rise, particularly in Steamboat Springs, where an increasing number of location-neutral business owners are choosing to live.

All the factors increasing broadband use support the need to improve broadband fiber infrastructure, particularly to anchor institutions like schools, healthcare organizations and large businesses, Kruse said.

NEO Fiber's hope for Routt County is to identify ways to improve the fiber network and broadband, while also looking at ways to improve wireless Internet and cell phone signals.

One of the first steps in the plan is to gather as much data as possible about current broadband assets and services.

The public can help with this process by taking a survey and speed test using their home or business Internet connections. For business Internet connections, use research.net/r/businessbroadbandrouttcounty and for home Internet connections, use research.net/r/broadbandhomerouttcounty.

More than 450 fiber networks have been built by communities across the country to improve broadband services, and similar projects are underway or have been completed in other Colorado communities, Kruse said.

More community meetings will be scheduled as NEO Fiber works with Routt County to develop the plan.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow