Silverton upset that Qwest hasn’t brought it fiber-optic technology

Qwest Communications is five years late in getting fiber-optic cable to Silverton and the town wants the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to step in on its behalf.

Silverton, which sits at 9,300 feet in the San Juan Mountains, is hosting the commission today and Wednesday for a hearing on the town’s complaint.

Officials with Qwest Communications said they’ve done all they can and that granting the town’s wish for fiber-optic cable won’t improve matters.

At the core of the dispute is Qwest’s pledge in 2000 to extend fiber-optic technology to Silverton, the seat of San Juan County.

Colorado taxpayers paid Qwest $37 million to build a fiber-optic link to every county seat, but the company has provided it only what Silverton calls a “tenuous microwave radio link.”

Only Silverton is bereft of fiber-optic connections among Colorado’s 64 county seats and that could be rectified if Qwest would complete a 16-mile section of fiber-optic line to the town.

“From our perspective, Qwest has perpetrated a multi-million-dollar bait-and-switch on our community,” Silverton Town Trustee Patrick Swonger said.

“We simply want to join the rest of Colorado on a fiber-optic backbone for uniform services and equal economic opportunity.”

Qwest complied with its obligation to build communications facilities throughout Colorado, Qwest Colorado President Chuck Ward said.

“The state has never said otherwise, and Silverton and San Juan County stipulated to the commission that Qwest has not violated the contract in any way,” Ward said.

Qwest meanwhile said its offering of 7 megabit broadband to 95 percent of the households in Silverton since 2006 amounts to providing “exceptional speed for such a remote location.”

Extending fiber-optic cable from Durango to Silverton wouldn’t improve service and “it would be economically and technically impractical to do so,”  Ward said.


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