Montezuma County is considering a locally based project that would improve and expand Internet service to rural areas.
In a recent report to the county commissioners, information technology director Jim McClain said the plan would use a combination of fiber-optic lines and wireless broadband. It would be in partnership with the county, city of Cortez, communication companies, Internet service providers, and Empire Electric.
Infrastructure for wireless broadband would be built first and require installing strategically placed main towers and relay stations. In theory, the broadband technology could reach 70 percent of the county.
For harder to reach areas like McElmo Canyon, expanding fiber-optic lines along Empire Electric’s poles would be ideal.
Upgraded Internet service using broadband wireless and fiber-optic connections would be “200 times faster” than what most rural customers get now, McClain said.
Currently, Internet service for rural residents is typically a DSL hook-up from the phone line that delivers five megabytes of power for $39 per month.
McClain said the upgrade proposal would deliver Internet service at one gigabyte of power for $70-$100 per month.
Estimated costs for the proposed upgrade is between $3 million and $5 million, and it would take three years to install.
Preliminary meetings are being planned to brainstorm the idea. Local partners are being sought, and “we will invite everyone to the table; if they are interested, they can step up,” McClain said.
Cortez has a good fiber-optic network, and has a base infrastructure the county can build from.
“We can branch off and feed it to the rest of the people,” he said.
It was noted that grants could help pay for installing fiber-optics down McElmo canyon to the Battle Rock school. State education goals are to have every school have one gigabyte availability by 2017.
Fiber-optic lines already stretch to Dove Creek, Mancos, Dolores and Rico. But for some areas, like the Westfork and Stoner neighborhoods, more infrastructure would be required for residents to tap into the line.
The vision for upgraded broadband service in the county would also improve cellular and emergency service communications to dead zones.