In a public forum on May 23, the city of Cortez plans to publicly reveal the results of a fiber-to-the-home feasibility study that began in January.
The City Council awarded a bid to Finley Engineering in December 2017 to develop a design and cost estimate for a possible citywide fiber project.
General Services Director Rick Smith said the company has been working on the study since January and is ready to bring its results to the city government.
Two consultants from Finley will present those results at a “high-speed internet public meeting” starting at 6 p.m. in City Hall.
The city has been weighing the possibility of becoming an internet service provider for years, and the idea gained urgency after the countywide Connect 4 broadband group stopped meeting in 2017. A public forum in February drew more than 50 people to City Hall to talk about the town’s need for high speed internet in order to provide education and business opportunities.
In March, the city rolled out a pilot program, dubbed the Cortez Community Network Pilot, to connect some residents with high speed internet through in-home wireless devices called GigaCenters. Smith said about a dozen people are participating in that program now, and he’s been getting good feedback from them.
But cost could be a significant obstacle for the city. At the forum in February, City Manager Shane Hale said it would cost $40 million to provide fiber to all Montezuma County residents, which proved too daunting for the Connect 4 members.
The feasibility study was designed to provide a cost estimate for providing fiber to Cortez residents with both an open access model, in which the city would provide the fiber for other broadband companies to use, and a single provider model, in which the city would become an ISP.
Representatives from Finley, a national engineering consulting firm based in Missouri, will present the results of the study to the City Council during a workshop on May 22, Smith said.
The workshop will be open to the public, but it won’t be livestreamed to the city website or include a public comment period, so Smith said he decided to hold a special meeting to make sure more people could hear the results.
“We’d like to get as many people in the community out there as we can,” he said.
The meeting will include a presentation from the Finley consultants and a question-and-answer period, in which people are encouraged to give their thoughts on whether the city should provide internet to all residents.