Construction activity is a fact of life in Telluride — the “big dig” on South Fir Street is a testament to what residents and businesses have been dealing with all summer. But the flurry of trench-digging and tube-laying happening in the alleys of late is where the rubber meets the road for a years-long project to bring high speed, fiber broadband internet from Nucla to Telluride.
The public-private partnership is comprised of San Miguel County, the Telluride Foundation, the Town of Telluride, Colorado’s Department of Local Affairs and Clearnetworx, a local fiber internet provider. A giant jigsaw puzzle of government dollars, various grants and private investments has resulted in what will be the county’s entrance into the 21st century in terms of high speed broadband internet. According to a news release issued by the Telluride Foundation — which served as the project’s coordinator of the San Miguel Regional Broadband Collaborative — the days of slow internet are soon to be over.
“No more spinning wheels when trying to watch your favorite Netflix show in the midst of Bluegrass Festival. No more internet black outs when a snowstorm hits. No more anxiety for students trying to access the internet to finish their homework, ” the release exults.
According to the Telluride Foundation’s program director, Erika Lapsys, the project starts with “the main backbone.” The line between Nucla and Norwood is undergrounded and was made possible by grants. The trenches are nearly completed in Norwood, and will link the school, library and the medical center.
The backbone between Norwood and the Sunshine substation in Ilium Valley was already put in place by Tri-State Generation and Transmission, when they constructed the power line upgrade several years ago. While Tri-State had no interest, Lapsys said, in becoming an internet provider, (they only used the fiber optic line to collect data relative to power uses), interested parties have long seen the line’s existence as an opportunity for improved internet capabilities ripe for the taking.
“Tri-State was more than willing to work with us,” Lapsys said.
Getting broadband services is easier in urban areas where competition and demand are greater, Lapsys said. There aren’t enough private companies coming in to rural areas with services.
“Then, it becomes up to governments and private organizations to make it happen,” she said.
Telluride officials are excited to have fiber optic’s reliability available for not only crucial services like fire, medical, school and governments, but for businesses and residents, as well. Calling it a “landmark event,” Telluride Mayor Sean Murphy said the advent of broadband was necessary.
“Twenty-first century broadband connectivity is absolutely vital to the economic evolution of the Town of Telluride from a tourist economy with predominantly seasonal service jobs to a well-rounded economy with sustainable year-round jobs,” he said. “I’m thrilled to see the progress and better broadband service coming to residents and visitors.”
Construction along the town’s roadways, which began this summer, ramped up last week, and will continue through Oct. 31. Clearnetworx estimates that it will start connecting customers to the newly installed fiber internet by this winter. However, as Clearnetworx construction crews work to complete the conduit and fiber installation, they may have to temporarily close roads or limit access to driveways in those areas. The project has been broken out into sections to minimize inconvenience to town residents.
Clearnetworx, founded in 2012, currently provides fiber internet access to a few businesses in the east side of the town. In addition to Telluride, the company offers fiber in other Western Slope areas, such as Delta, Montrose, Ridgway and Ouray, and has plans to expand internet access to Norwood at the beginning of next year.
An information hotline is available, and Clearnetworx will answer any questions concerned residents might have. Call 970-729-8229 for more information about if and how your residence might be affected (and for how long), or how to sign up for fiber optic sourced internet.
Lapsys said that direct connection to the network is ideal, but microwave or wireless connections are possible. Lawson Hill and Hillside residents won’t be connected until sometime next year, but she said calling and letting Clearnetworx know of interest from residents of those subdivisions would be valuable to the company.