The city of Cortez and Montezuma County will each contribute a matching $300,000 in a joint project to construct fiber optic cable from Fifth Street on South Broadway down to County Road G and U.S. Route 491 intersection by June.
The city signed off on the expenditures at its Jan. 12 City Council meeting. The expansion would be the first phase in the city’s efforts to bring fiber optic to Cortez Municipal Airport. The county’s main motivation is to ensure that the incoming Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store will have high-speed internet. The Cortez Community Network Enterprise plans to expand the broadband service area to include businesses and up to 75 residents along the route.
“It’s a win for the county, and it’s a win for the city,” said Cortez General Services Director Rick Smith. “COVID has sort of illustrated the need to get fiber deeper into the community and the county. “People need the ability to work from home, and students need to be able to take classes at home.”
The project is also billed as a gateway for potential partners such as the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments.
Proponents of the project also believe it’s a win because the city and county are getting double the amount of fiber broadband network built for half the cost.
In its budget request to City Council, the General Services Department argued that 2020 revenues were better than projected and some surplus was available for capital projects. The City Equipment Fund balance grew because no purchases were made in 2020.
Montezuma County included its $300,000 in its 2021 budget. A formal budget amendment to the City Equipment Fund budget was passed at Cortez City Council’s Jan. 12 meeting in order to match the county’s contribution.
“The city and the county decided to join forces and kill two birds with one stone,” said Montezuma County Director of IT Jim McClain.
McClain told The Journal that county commissioners expect the fiber to be installed by June.
The fiber will be built as an “open-access network,” meaning that any local internet service provider is welcome to use it to provide broadband to nearby residents and businesses.
“We have to fix the broadband problem,” McClain said. “This is only one piece of it, but it’s a good start in the right direction. There’s always been this stigma that the city and the county can’t work together, but we’re really trying to show that we can.”