Bit by bit, southwestern Colorado is cobbling together fiber-fast broadband service to get its residents up to speed, or at least to 2015 internet standards, when the Federal Communications Commission updated its benchmark to 25 megabits down and 3 Mbps up.
The latest bit came this week as three Colorado counties learned that Utah-based Emery Telcom was awarded a $6.3 million federal grant to provide gigabit fiber in their communities. About 684 homes, 91 farms, 52 businesses, three fire stations and two post offices are in the proposed upgrade, which represents about 4.6% of the households in Dolores, San Miguel and Montezuma counties.
That may seem like small potatoes compared to the Front Range, but the project will help bring the underserved communities to a modern digital era that will go beyond faster broadband at home, said Miriam Gillow-Wiles, executive director of Southwest Colorado Council of Governments
“One of the things that’s great about this is that it’s starting to build out fiber in areas that don’t even really have cell phone service,” Gillow-Wiles said. “It’s a huge step.”
It’s the second time within 12 months that the southwest region got a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program, a $1.2 billion program to increase internet speeds in rural America and for farmers. In November, the town of Dove Creek became the first Colorado community to benefit from ReConnect, through a $2.7 million grant also awarded to Emery Telecom, which is also known as Emery Telecommunications & Video. With 494 homes designated for gigabit broadband, that’s two-thirds of Dolores County’s population.