It would be easy to rest on past laurels, but members of the Park County Broadband Advisory Board are diligently forging ahead with effort to deliver high-speed internet access to as many homes and businesses as possible.

As last week’s story explained, the broadband initiative has already overseen the installation of broadband and paved the way for drastically improved telecommunications throughout virtually all of the U.S. Highway 285 corridor.

That work, which began in 2016, is referred to as the middle mile of infrastructure. Now that the middle mile is completed, the initiative is entering what is referred to as the last mile.

The last mile involves connecting specific homes and businesses to existing broadband infrastructure if possible, and in areas where it is not, satellites are the next best option. Two locations where last mile work is either soon to be underway or has already started include the neighborhoods of Burland Ranchettes and Silverheels Ranch.

Private entities have played critical roles in completing the middle mile, and that trend will continue as a means of completing the last mile. Some of those private entities include Neteo High Speed Internet, CenturyLink, South Park Telephone, Comcast, Colorado Community Fiber, Rise, New Way to Net and Hughes Net.

“It is our goal to reach everyone with fiber, wireless services or via satellite coverage,” said John Carr, Broadband Advisory Board Chairman. “There are solutions for everyone, even for those folks who are off the grid. Some solutions might be more expensive than others, however.”

According to Carr, broadband is fast becoming a necessary part of our infrastructure.

“Broadband is becoming a necessity,” Carr said. “Broadband is not technically considered a utility, but in reality it is a utility with a small ‘u.’ From a technology and business perspective, more and more residents and businesses are in need of high-speed internet. Trends in commerce like Amazon also beg for internet connectivity, as does Telehealth, which became so popular during the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Kim Burton, who serves as secretary for the Park County Broadband Advisory Board and has spent 20 years in telecommunications, agrees whole heartedly.

“I am a small business owner and also homeschool my kids,” Burton said. “When I initially moved to the area, I struggled to get internet. People who move here want internet fast, and also want high-speed internet services.”

Carr explained that the middle mile of broadband was primarily designed to serve anchor institutions such as schools, emergency service providers and county offices. Now that the middle mile has been completed, the board’s attention is to utilize that infrastructure to reach the remainder of Park County.

“It has been quite a process, and often we had to one step back in order to take two steps forward,” Carr said.

County Manager Thomas Eisenman said the Broadband project was an enormous challenge from the county’s perspective, and that it has required the attention of many people, and many entities.

“At first nobody knew much about it, and it took time to develop partnerships with private entities who could assist in the effort,” Eisenman said. “But now we are focusing on the Lake George area and its anchor institutions, and the project is moving forward.”

When asked if there were times during the process where he questioned whether delivering broadband throughout Park County was even feasible, he was completely frank.

“Most, if not all of the time,” he joked. “There was just so much to learn, and there were so many challenges, that it was definitely questionable at times.”

Finally, the advisory board is launching a community outreach campaign to attract more internet providers, as well as business owners and citizens who need internet service.

Anyone wishing to obtain internet service or providers of internet service can contact Kim Burton at volcanowishes@gmail.com.

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