Some Western Slope communities are making more progress on improving their broadband connectivity, and Gov. Jared Polis promises that more is to come.
Last week, two areas of the region announced new grants or recently completed projects aimed at improving their access to the internet.
In Mountain Village, town officials said a new, redundant connection has been successfully created that will help prevent future outages.
That happened this summer when the then lone fiber optics line that connects the town with the outside world was accidentally cut more than 200 miles away in Park County. That accident caused the town's internet access to be out for more than 12 hours.
To prevent similar occurrences, the town has created a second broadband line. Now, it has fiber coming from the south from Albuquerque, New Mexico, via Durango, and from the north from Denver through Montrose.
That second line, created in partnership with a Wyoming-based telecommunications company, Mammoth Networks, allows the town to switch to it should something again happen to the first line.
"This first upgrade is a giant step forward, improving internet uptime for business and residential customers," said Mountain Village's chief technology officer, Jim Soukup. "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."
The second project is to create a new last-mile fiber optics network in Dolores County in Colorado and San Juan County in Utah.
Funded from a $2.1 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through a program known as Re-Connect, the project is expected to directly benefit 528 households, 20 farms and ranches, 15 small businesses and the Dove Creek Fire Department, the Dolores County Sheriff's Office and several schools in that region.
Polis' office said that project will bring the state's goal of providing full broadband access to all of rural Colorado to 92%.
In addition to that federal program, the state has a similar effort. Known as the Broadband Deployment Board, the program offers grants for specific projects, mainly those that boost rural connectivity. Funding of that program, which comes from a special surcharge paid by all telephone users, was recently beefed up by the Colorado Legislature to about $115 million over the next five years.
In his recently developed Rural Economic Blueprint, which Polis revealed in Montrose a week ago, the governor said funding of broadband access would continue to be a major priority.
"Colorado's rural communities access to affordable and reliable broadband is critical to our economy and our future," he said. "This (Dove Creek) project will further Colorado goal of providing rural broadband access to 92% of rural households by June 2020. Closing the rural broadband gap requires creativity, bipartisan collaboration and investment."