MV broadband

Town of Mountain Village broadband technicians Dustin Miles, left, and Hector Delgado, right, run an OTDR to test the integrity of Mountain Village’s fiber optic lines at Mountain Village’s network operation center. [Courtesy photo]

This week Mountain Village made a significant leap towards a stronger internet connection for the town’s residents and businesses when it partnered with Mammoth Networks to connect the town to a second source of fiber optic cable, creating a more resilient system less prone to prolonged outages.

Previously, Mountain Village received internet through a fiber optic line from Denver via Montrose. As of this week, a new line has been connected to the town from a cable out of Albuquerque via Durango. Having two lines of potential internet connection, compared to the previous single line, creates redundancy in the system, a back-up plan in case one of the lines fails. Like the proverbial eggs in one basket, this upgrade divides up the eggs into two very high-tech baskets, thus protecting internet users significantly better from a Humpty-Dumpty scenario. In other words, if something happens to one of the lines and causes an outage, Mountain Village can quickly switch over to the other line and users can continue their business as usual.

“This first upgrade is a giant step forward, improving internet uptime for business and residential customers,” Jim Soukup, Mountain Villages chief technology officer, said in a news release. “The town is very committed to building internet pathway diversity. Our residents and visitors deserve a high-speed connection to the rest of the world.”

In an age where many people work remotely or rely on wifi for calling and texting in areas of poor cell service, the upgrade makes internet access more reliable for visitors and residents alike. Access to the internet has become so ubiquitous in the modern world that it feels almost like air, or water: something so elemental that we forget to think much about it until it’s gone, when panic ensues.

But optical fiber technology is not as infallible as one might think. A cut to the line, which can occur from storms or construction accidents, for example, can cause sustained widespread outages to telecommunications services such as internet, phone and cable.

In July of 2019, for example, a fiber optic line 225 miles away from Mountain Village in Como, Colorado was accidentally cut, causing a prolonged outage in Mountain Village for more than twelve hours until the line could be repaired. Such outages can cause businesses to shutter for the day and create safety concerns if residents are left without the means to communicate in case of emergency.

Fiber optic technologies have existed in telecommunications applications since the 1970s, but have revolutionized modern communications since the early 2000s when prices for the technology dropped significantly. The technology is fascinating: the optical fibers, very long, thin strands of glass about the width of a human hair, are arranged into a bundle, the fiber optic cable. Light, encoded with data, then travels down the cable by bouncing off the walls of the cable, until it arrives at the receiving end, where the data can be decoded. Since the technology uses light as its messenger, it is much faster than previous electronic transmitters such as copper, allowing data to travel at approximately two-thirds the speed of light. A single optical fiber is capable of carrying approximately 90,000 TV channels.

Now with this second fiber optic line backing up Mountain Village’s internet system, residents and guests this winter will enjoy a high-speed, stable connection to services such as Netflix and Google. Mammoth Networks, the company responsible for engineering the upgrade, provides a direct connection to these services, meaning that the fiber is plugged directly into Netflix and Google routers.

“I love engineering fiber transport in the Western Slope,” said Evan Biagi, VP of Colorado operations for Mammoth. “Jim and his team at Mountain Village asked me to find them a way to ensure they are not impacted by a cut in the fiber backbone, and we found a solution.”

However, the work is not done for Soukup and his team, who are continuing to build an even better, more resilient system for internet users in the village. A text message notification system is currently in the works to alert the community in the event of internet and power outages. It is expected to launch by late December of this year.