Trish Thibodo, director of Delta County Economic Development, came before the Hotchkiss Town Council on Aug. 13 to give a presentation on efforts to bring broadband Internet access to Delta County. DCED is working with Region 10, which was recently awarded a $5.2 million grant to build middle-mile infrastructure to provide that access to the county. The money will support getting it to a carrier-neutral location and "anchor institutions," explained Thibodo. Because this is a government-funded initiative, it will be built as an open-access network available to multiple Internet service providers.
Thibodo said DCED is encouraging the town to opt out of State Senate Bill 05-152, which prohibits towns from becoming direct providers, partnering with private companies or allowing the use of government infrastructure for cable television, telecommunications and high-speed Internet access without putting the issue to a vote. The town has already submitted a letter of intent to Delta County to put the issue before voters this November. If towns opt out, they have more flexibility in getting high-speed broadband to county businesses and homes.
Mark Kurtz, smart grid coordinator with Delta-Montrose Electric Association, also gave a presentation on the authority's history of bringing broadband access to the area, dating back to about 1999. DMEA is asking Olathe and the Delta County communities to pass a resolution allowing DMEA to approve five actions that will allow them to move forward with the work necessary to get access to the town. Consumers can then decide which company they want to be their provider.
Trustees directed the town attorney Bo Nerlin to draft a resolution, omitting the fifth action stating that the town, "in conjunction with DMEA, aid in the marketing efforts to engage it citizens to encourage participation in the program."
Kurtz said he understands where the town is coming from and will take the message back to the board. "I do understand where you have to be somewhat agnostic when it comes to businesses that are in your communities," said Kurtz, "and you can't support" one business over another.
Trustee Tom Wills noted the town has "been involved in this for years and we've gotten familiar with it. When you've been working with it, it's not that confusing," said Wills. "But when you bring it in front of folks that haven't been with it that long, it gets confusing in a hurry."