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Broadband competition could benefit consumers

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Not long ago, Delta County was said to be broadband deficient. Now, there are two broadband "middle mile" systems in planning or construction and consumers look to benefit as other Internet options become available.

A middle mile system being built by DMEA aims eventually to bring fast Internet access service directly to "last mile" customers -- individual homes and businesses.

Another middle mile system proposed by non-profit Region 10 is in the planning stages.

DMEA and Region 10, both Montrose-based organizations, are aiming to complete middle mile fiber optic cable networks would access broadband Internet content originating elsewhere. If the two networks are built, they will be competing with each other for customers. They would also compete, and sometimes do business with, private sector Internet service providers (ISPs) that currently operate in the county.

Since the fall of 2014 when Region 10 first announced its broadband middle mile plans, it has wanted to form "partnerships" with private sector ISPs as its last mile Internet content providers. Region 10 is still trying to form those partnerships. It held a meeting for private sector ISPs in Montrose on March 31, hoping to enlist them in its planning effort.

The Region 10 presentation at that meeting was essentially the same general overview of the plan that was made a year and a half before, with one difference: With some $10 million of the public's money pledged to the Region 10 plan, the presentation included pitches by high level personnel from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (the major Region 10 funder) and from the governor's Office of Information Technology. There were more officials from state and local governments in the room than there were representatives of the private ISPs. The CEO of DMEA was also in the audience.

Region 10 officials said at the meeting they will soon issue a "request for information," or an RFI from private sector ISPs. Region 10 will use that information in final planning of its fiber optic cable routes, according to project officials at the meeting.

One day after the Montrose meeting, DMEA issued a press release touting progress being made on its own middle mile project (see page A8). DMEA is already soliciting last mile customers that its officials have said will get a "pay up-to-sign up" offer for service.

The competitive position for local private sector ISPs was also upgraded recently. A Denver-based company, Forethought.net, in a solicitation to local ISPs states, "We have established a dark fiber interconnection directly with Net-flix ... We are the first and only transport provider lit into the Netflix facility..."

The company promises to offer other services to the private sector ISPs for resale to their last mile customers. "We offer Internet access, VoIP telephone service, and Cloud Infrastructure hosting service. We also provide wholesale IP transit and Ethernet transport to other ISPs, schools and government."

Foresight.net claims its speed is blazing fast ("Ethernet transport up to 1 Gbps" to Grand Junction or Montrose) and that its pricing is highly competitive. Its service promises could provide Internet consumers even more broadband choices - local ISPs accessing current content services; accessing content via Forethought.net or the Region 10 middle mile; or the service DMEA is offering.

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