Internet project for rural Colorado on hold
DURANGO — A three-year project funded with $100 million in federal stimulus money that promised to connect more than 170 Colorado communities throughout the state with a 1 gigabit, high-speed fiber-optic Internet connection is on hold.
The federal government suspended Eagle-Net’s grant, citing environmental issues with the project’s current routes and problems with permits and consultations with other agencies.
According to the Durango Herald, Eagle-Net officials said they expect the suspension to be lifted May 1 at the latest.
Customers complain that it’s taking hours to use the programs they need, putting them at a disadvantage with those who have high-speed access.
Across the state, Eagle-Net has connected to about 25 percent of the 220 educational institutions slated to be wired to the network, according to a report in The Denver Post. In February, the project came under intense scrutiny from state legislators who questioned its finances and effectiveness.
The empty cable that will carry strands of fiber-optic cable to Dove Creek ends just a mile from town. The Eagle-Net project promised to connect rural Colorado communities like Dove Creek with broadband Internet, but the federal suspension of work has stalled the project.
“We’re underserved, I’ll put it that way. I’ve watched this for three years, and I’m brokenhearted about it,” said Bryce Capron, who lives in Dove Creek, more than 400 miles southwest of Denver.
The Southwest Colorado Council of Governments wrote a letter to Colorado’s congressional delegation proposing that federal legislators take Eagle-Net’s assets and the grant money associated with this region and turn them over to the council of governments. So far, they’ve heard no response.
The council proposes using Eagle-Net’s existing fiber routes hooked up by local Internet carriers and pay for it with federal funding.
The council, along with other rural council of governments across the state, sent another letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Monday requesting that in the future, grants related to broadband be put in the hands of regional governments instead of private entities.
Eagle-Net representatives acknowledged that Dove Creek, Cortez, Mancos and Dolores have yet to be connected to Eagle-Net’s core ring of fiber, which stretches mainly along electric lines from Montrose to Durango.
In many cases, gaps totaling only a few miles are all that remain to complete the connections, but they could prove difficult to connect because of environmental and other issues that could affect access.