Residents understand that there are some areas of the county that can be considered "dead zones" when it comes to cell phone service. Depending on your cell phone provider and your location, you may be able to "reach out and touch someone," or you may get only an earful of silence.
The same scenario is seen for broadband services. In Delta County there are some bright spots, and there are some very dark areas, John Gavan explains. Gavan, a newly elected member to the Delta County Economic Development (DCED) board of directors, is making the rounds to city councils and town boards in Delta County, trying to rally support for a Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) project that could radically improve broadband services across the county.
This is a project of critical importance to DCED, Gavan says, because broadband service is an essential component of doing business. "It's like another utility, like power, sewer, highways," he said.When businesses are scouting locations, they always ask about broadband services. The answer varies greatly depending on location.
In the City of Delta, there's a "robust list" of service providers, Gavan explains. Rates are higher than the national average, but at least services are available.
"Where we start to see problems is when you go out to the North Fork, the Surface Creek, the Crawford area," he explains. "Service gets very spotty, if it's available at all."
The Federal Communications Commission is in the process of changing the definition of served and unserved areas, Gavan says. Under the new definition, most of Delta County outside of Delta city proper will be considered an unserved area (less than 6 Mbps up and 1.5 Mbps down).
"I would jump through hoops if I could get that service today," Gavan said.
The other aspect of the issue is cost. He explained the library district went through a bid process last year which illustrates the price differential between the city and outlying areas of the county. In Delta, the cost is $2.41/Mbps per month; in the North Fork Valley the monthly cost is $101.36/Mbps — 42 times the cost for similar service.
Gavan moved from the Front Range, where he paid $65 for 25 megabyte service. "I pay the same amount here, and I'm lucky to get 1.5 megabytes." At his home in the North Fork Valley, where he's selected one of the lower-priced packages, Gavan says he can't stream Netflix movies.
The solution, DCED believes, lies with accessing fiber-optic cable DMEA is getting ready to install on transmission routes throughout Delta County. Gavan says DMEA will use new ground wire technology which has a hollow core where 50-pair fiber-optic cable is inserted.
DMEA has discussed the possibility of conveying two fibers on that network to a non-profit entity that would in turn offer commercial services on the fiber network.
DMEA would then become a "middle mile provider," with TDS, Skybeam or possibly a new company carrying the service to homes, schools and businesses throughout the county.
"This would so radically change the economics that we think there's a good possibility new entrants would start up last mile service business in our towns," Gavan says. "It would solve the problem of getting broadband services to where people need it and provide impetus to start some new businesses in Delta County.
"At the end of the day they'll have connectivity all the way from their Montrose headquarters to virtually every substation in Delta County."
DCED is seeking letters of support to encourage DMEA to follow through on this plan. He hopes members of the public will attend DMEA's annual meeting to add their support, as well.
"I've worked for two years with incumbent service providers — TDS, Skybeam, CenturyLink — to try and drive this cost model down and I've been unsuccessful," Gavan said. "I view this as probably the only viable option we've got, and I'm seeking support to try to make this happen."
In a follow-up phone call, Gavan said another project to extend high speed Internet service across Colorado was placed on hold. EagleNet received a $100 million federal grant to deliver a carrier-quality broadband network to connect education, libraries, government and health care facilities across the state. After a "top down review," the project was placed on hold. A new CEO was brought in and about six weeks ago EagleNet was given the go-ahead to restart network construction. Gavan says he's seen no progress to this point. "At this point I just don't know what to tell you," he said. "I would have been more positive a few months ago."
EagleNet is also a middle mile provider and had committed only to infrastructure connecting "anchor institutions" in the City of Delta such as city hall and the county courthouse. Over time, it was hoped service would be extended to homes and businesses throughout the county.blog comments powered by Disqus