County works toward better communication, faster internet

County works toward better communication, faster internet

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All residents of Grand County know how important it is to have good internet and good phone service. We also know that living in Grand County means we enjoy all that nature offers, but we may not enjoy fast internet service or great cell phone reception depending on where we live in the county. The Grand County Commissioners are working towards better communication in Grand County in a myriad of exciting ways.

Nate Walowitz, the regional broadband director for the Northwest Council of Governments, gave a presentation to the grand county commissioners on July 18th. NWCOG is focusing on lowering prices for broadband, better service and better infrastructure with local providers. Broadband is important for growth. Walowitz states, “Broadband is critical to economic development. We can’t get and keep people unless broadband gets better and better.”

Walowitz reported that he has worked with Mountain Parks Electric as an independent consultant to discuss what is practical as MPE examines the possibility of their movement to be an internet provider in Grand and Jackson county or to at least help build infrastructure to support a provider. As Grand County moves forward, Walowitz stressed the importance of partnerships across regions as well as public and private partnerships. He expressed a concern Grand County may need to address, “SB 152 limits public and private partnerships that we are working for. Summit has voted to exempt themselves from SB 152 and many local towns are moving in that direction as well.”

It then makes sense that SB 152 is also a priority issue for Grand County. SB 152 has been in effect since 2005 and discourages public investment in internet network infrastructure. SB 152 bans local governments from providing any kind of television or internet service without getting permission from voters first.

The Grand County Commissioners are currently working on language for a ballot initiative so that Grand county voters can weigh in on this important topic. Voters could decide for exemption from SB 152, possibly opening up more avenues for partnerships and broadband solutions in Grand county.

Communication solutions are being pursued on many fronts. T-Mobile users in Grand County will be happy to hear that their coverage will be expanded. On July 25th, the commissioners heard from TowerCo, an independent wireless tower company based out of North Carolina. BOCC approved Towerco’s permit amendment request to enlarge the currently unused YMCA communication tower. Once enlarged, it will house Tmobile and 3 other providers.

Walowitz, “Grand county is making progress, but it’s slow because the two larger internet providers aren’t investing a lot of funding to get to the last mile. Providers say they need a way to get into the communities to build the last miles or more opportunities to put wireless towers in to extend their network to reach more subscribers.”

Keep an eye out for more communication changes and growth in Grand County.

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