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DMEA becomes important partner for broadband

DMEA becomes important partner for broadband

Region 10 recently gained an important partner in the push to bring faster and affordable internet to the Western Slope. Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) has agreed to be listed as a partner for the beginning phase of a regional broadband network in the six-county region of Delta, Montrose, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Ouray, and San Miguel. Last month, the DMEA board voted unanimously to participate in an upcoming grant application with Region 10 by offering its available fiberoptic cables as a valuable contribution to the project.

DMEA is already in the process of building an internal network that combines all of its substations within its service area that extends into Delta and Montrose Counties. Region 10, based on consultation received from NEO Fiber, has identified this network as a vital component to the development of a regional broadband network.

DMEA’s fiberoptic network will be completed in about a year. Region 10, with the support of its board and its broadband steering committee, is offering to assist in the perfection of the easements necessary to allow commercial activity on the existing lines. In lieu of this, DMEA is offering access to its network to be leveraged for “middle mile” infrastructure. The network would extend to strategically located carrier neutral locations – which will be near anchor institutions like schools, fire stations, government offices, etc. – within each municipality.

Region 10 will be submitting a grant proposal to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs on April 1st to access additional funding for the development of this network. In addition to DMEA, the grant proposal will include the cities andtowns of Delta County and City of Montrose. This particular portion of fiber network represents the first phase of a broader regional network that will grow to include other counties within the region.

DMEA changes broadband position

DMEA changes broadband position

According to the Delta County Independent, DMEA has recently changed its position on offering internet services to its constituents. Until recently, DMEA’s plans for extending fiber optic cable was isolated to its own internal uses for connecting and optimizing its substations. In response to significant community feedback, DMEA recently announced a new position that allows for middle and last mile options on the table. This update will have significant impacts to the future of broadband for not only the Delta and Montrose area, but other rural areas serviced by electrical cooperatives who are grappling with broadband access solutions. Learn more about this announcement courtesy of Delta County Independent. You can also read the full DMEA position paper on their website.

Region 10 brought resources and opportunities in 2014

Region 10 brought resources and opportunities in 2014

The Region 10 League for Economic Assistance & Planning thanks our member communities for working with us to bring more and better resources to the people of our six-county region over the past 12 months.

A quick review reveals exciting growth and change at Region 10, which has served as a regional council of governments for municipalities within Montrose, Delta, Gunnison, San Miguel, Ouray and Hinsdale counties since 1972.

Some highlights from 2014 include the hiring in April of Region 10’s Regional Development Coordinator Jay Stooksberry, whose skills, strong ties to Delta’s business community, background and credentials have helped Region 10 target and pursue new opportunities to better serve our member municipalities.

Region 10 Executive Director Michelle Haynes has taken a leading role throughout the year in both economic development and regional broadband efforts, through grant-funded opportunities to bring more resources, funding and a blueprint for broadband implementation to our hard-hit Western Slope communities. Michelle recently presented state officials with a clear demographic picture of how the Western Slope’s economic recovery stacks up against that of Front Range communities.

Region 10’s Community Living Services, under the leadership of Director Eva Veitch, created and implemented a program of Lunch-N-Learn educational and support opportunities at the start of 2014, and on May 13, hosted the first-ever Caregiver Summit & Retreat at Grace Community Church. A successful public-private partnership, the Caregiver Summit & Retreat brought support, resources and relief to caregivers and their loved ones with a full day of information, advice, new tools, socialization and self-care. The innovative event was supported with both on-site and in-home respite care for those whose caregivers could not otherwise attend. Community Living Services also welcomed a new Long Term Care Ombudsman, Sandy Walker, in June.

Also in 2014, the Region 10 Small Business Resource Center headed by Director Vince Fandel and Assistant Director Linda Riba, who joined Region 10 in August, continued to draw crowds to its popular hands-on business classes in Montrose, Delta and at the HIVE in Paonia. The SBRC has broken new ground once again this month, with the addition of the Small Changes Microloan Program , a simplified microloan program designed to meet small business expansion and marketing needs.

 

How Chattanooga got the fastest internet in the US

How Chattanooga got the fastest internet in the US

When people think of high tech cities, Silicon Valley is usually the first to come to mind. Many don’t instantly think of the name Chattanooga, Tennessee. However, this city boasts the fastest and most accessible internet speeds of any other municipality in the United States. Based on a drastic revitalization of the town’s internet capacity and infrastructure, Chattanooga was able to emerge as an economically vibrant community. Most notably, the town was able to expand fiber faster than Google’s efforts in other major cities. Learn more about Chattanooga’s efforts and the residual economic impact.

Also, you can view the video below.

chattanooga

 

“We want abundancy, redundancy, and affordability”

“We want abundancy, redundancy, and affordability”

The following first article appeared in the Montrose Mirror, who has granted permission for this to be republished. 

“WE WANT ABUNDANCY, REDUNDANCY AND AFFORDABILITY”

By Caitlin Switzer

Virgil Turner, City of Montrose Director of Innovation and Citizen Engagement, discusses broadband with the League of Women Voters.

Virgil Turner, City of Montrose Director of Innovation and Citizen Engagement, discusses broadband with the League of Women Voters.

In Hong Kong, one can obtain high-speed internet service for just $25 a month. Here in Montrose, slower, less reliable service costs far more. And the situation will not correct itself–with little competition, private providers can be complacent when it comes to charging high rates for outdated or absent technology. Those key facts and others were shared by City of Montrose Director of Innovation and Citizen Engagement Virgil Turner, who joined Region 10 Executive Director Michelle Haynes for an informative talk on the state of local Broadband for a League of Women Voters presentation at the Montrose Library Nov. 12.

“This is one of the most important issues we are talking about as a community,” Turner said. “It is of critical importance–we live in a data-driven world…yet Montrose ranks 61st out of 70 Colorado communities for download speeds, and Colorado ranks 32nd in the nation for broadband speed.

“We’re not quite where we want to be.”

Turner discussed the state of the local industry, and passed around samples of old copper phone line such as is typically in place in Montrose, as well as samples of fiber.

“This is the technology we have,” he said of the copper. “It’s so slow. With fiber, we will be using pulses of light. Why can’t we make the transition?”

Turner discussed city efforts to move community broadband forward, such as the city’s “Dig Once” resolution to place fiber in the ground any time a trench is open for any reason; efforts to partner with local last-mile providers; a close working relationship with Region 10; and Montrose’s recent inclusion in the national 21st Century Cities initiative.

“This is a tough, tough issue,” Turner said. “It’s going to be hard for us, and we need to strike the right balance between private enterprise and the public sector. There is just not enough return on investment for it to happen organically, and council is committed to this.

“We are now looking at ways to get fiber optic to our citizens,” Turner said.

  “[Broadband] is of critical importance–we live in a data-driven world…yet Montrose ranks 61st out of 70 Colorado communities for download speeds, and Colorado ranks 32nd in the nation for broadband speed.” ~ Virgil Turner

Because Region 10, as a council of governments, is tasked with developing an economic development strategy for a six-county area, taking the lead on implementation of a regional broadband blueprint has been essential, said Region 10 Director Michelle Haynes.

“There is a direct correlation with broadband and the health of the economic development environment in our six counties,” she said. “And the need extends beyond business–I have three teenagers, and they do a lot of their homework online. Laptops are an issue in our house around 7 p.m., but broadband is even more of one, because we live out on Spring Creek.”

Health care is also impacted by the level of broadband available, she said.

“A clinic in one of our communities recently lost access to its records when the Internet went down,” Haynes said. “So we are asking, what can we do to ensure adequate broadband in our area, and what will it take to get us there, so that our students, our doctors and our businesses have access to the level of infrastructure they need to compete in today’s environment.”

Region 10 has contracted with NEOFiber of Glenwood Springs to create a blueprint for implementation of broadband throughout the region, and is seeking grants for infrastructure construction.

“In six months, we’ll have a plan,” Haynes said. “It will be expensive–we have geographic challenges here like canyons and mountains.  But we have tried to understand where our assets are; we are trying not to replicate, but to use what we have in a cost-effective way.

“We want abundancy, redundancy and affordability,” she said. “We want to know what it would take to complete the circuits, close the gaps, and make service more efficient.”

Current realities include the fact that “a wire hanging on a fence somewhere near Gunnison” presently serves as a vital connection, and that there is little incentive for last mile providers to make big changes any time soon.

“We are encouraging speed tests, so we can challenge assumptions regarding coverage here,” Haynes said. “And I feel that in rural regions, cooperatives will be important to this effort, so we are working with DMEA to work through their issues.

Both Turner and Haynes added that additional community meetings will be held as broadband work progresses. Region 10 currently offers a link to the statewide speed test from their web site, https://www.region10.net/how-fast-is-your-internet/.

Across the Divide: A Tale of Two Economies

Across the Divide: A Tale of Two Economies
acrossthedivide

Click the image to see the full presentation.

Sometimes, familiar things look different when seen through another set of eyes–and an economic recovery viewed from the Front Range looks different seen from the Western Slope point of view. Region 10 brought the Western Slope’s viewpoint into focus recently, at a presentation to the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) and other agencies in Denver.

“They asked us to talk about how our recovery looks, compared to the recovery statewide,” Region 10 Executive Director Michelle Haynes said. “We focused on the West Central region (Montrose, Delta, Ouray, San Miguel, Gunnison and Hinsdale counties), but our presentation was relevant to the whole Western Slope.”

“Michelle did a wonderful job comparing Region 10 to the rest of the state and the nation,” Colorado State Demographer Elizabeth Garner said. “Her presentation highlighted the fact that the recovery that the Front Range has experienced has been disparate.

“She focused on some of the constraints on the West Slope and Region 10’s plans to move the Region forward,” Garner said. “Many attendees found the information enlightening as they don’t often think about conditions outside of the Front Range.”

The presentation, entitled “Across the Divide, a Tale of Two Economies,” compares the median age of Region 10 residents (43.4) to that of residents of Colorado as a whole (36.4); median income of Region 10 households ($46,143) to that of households statewide ($56,765); and unemployment rates in Region 10 (7.7 percent) and statewide (4.8 percent). One statistic that is higher here on the Western Slope is poverty–15.9 percent of those in Region 10 live at or below poverty levels, while statewide the percentage is 12.9 percent. Median educational attainment statistics here in Region 10 show that 29.8 percent of residents have earned a Bachelor’s degree or higher, while statewide the percentage of individuals with a Bachelor’s degree or higher is 37.5.

demographic11-19

Michelle Haynes, Region 10 Executive Director, presenting “Across the Divide” to the recent Statewide DOLA Conference.

The presentation also examined distribution of population among Western Slope counties; diversity within the six counties served by Region 10; Region 10 jobs and wages; and key economic indicators. Challenges to the region’s economic recovery are reviewed, as are strategies for recovery.

Perhaps most telling is chart that depicts both Colorado’s status as the nation’s fourth fastest growing population center, with a 4.96 percent increase between 2010 and 2013. During those same years, however, Region 10 saw a 0.53 percent decrease in population.
“It is really important for our state leaders to understand the challenges we face on the Western Slope,” Haynes said. “Legislation impacts us differently here than it does urban areas.”

Broadband in the news

Broadband in the news

Broadband continues to be a hot topic in Western Slope communities. Below are some recent publications that discuss WHY we need further broadband development, and how our current infrastructure is holding us back economically.

grandvalley

Grand Valley Magazine “Better Broadband”

Starting on page 101, this article dives into how broadband relates to economic development, with a specific lens focused on the Western Slope. It also discusses the political nature of this issue, and what actors are involved. John Gavan, who is an important member of our Broadband Steering Committee, is quoted as well.

Other recent news articles related to broadband developments in Region 10:

KVNF – “Region 10 Tries To Find Ways To Improve Western Slope Broadband”

More discussion about the economic impact of broadband. John Gavan is featured, as well as Diane Kruse from NEO Fiber.

KVNF – “City of Montrose Collaborates to Bring Fiber Optic

This article is specific to the City of Montrose and their broadband efforts. Virgil Turner, Director of Innovation and Citizen Engagement, is a valuable team member on the regional broadband steering committee

Montrose Daily Press – “City advancing plans for broadband” (Subscription needed)

This article covers the collaboration between City of Montrose and Region 10. You will need a subscription to read the full article. Most notable quote comes from Michelle Haynes, Region 10’s Executive Director: “[Broadband is] getting to the level that electricity was back in the 1900s. There was an understanding that it’s what you need to operate and be competitive.” 

The Norwood Post – “County asks voters to approve telecom infrastructure ownership”

San Miguel County is going to the ballot to opt out of SB-152 just like Montrose did. 

KUNC – “Why Colorado Towns Have to Vote If They Want Better Broadband”

Takes a look at communities challenging SB-152 by taking broadband ownership to the voters.

Broadband Update – October 14, 2014

Broadband Update – October 14, 2014

The broadband steering committee and NEO Fiber hosted a conference call on October 9th to go over the latest updates and discuss next steps regarding our Broadband Blueprint planning.

NEO Fiber finished its final round of community meetings. Hosted in nearly a dozen locations throughout Region 10, NEO Fiber discussed its plans and solicited feedback from community stakeholders, anchor institutions, and service providers. The meetings were well attended and positive in dialogue.

NEO Fiber has already started the daunting task of mapping out broadband infrastructure. These means an extensive compilation of census and GIS data with the goal of consolidating information about existing infrastructure like cell towers and underground fiber. NEO Fiber is working closely with all of the Region 10 communities to gather necessary data that will better inform the final results of the implementation plan. This aspect of the project requires a high degree of effort and even higher level of detail by NEO Fiber. It is a lot of “plug and chug” style of work but very necessary to the perfection of a final product.

To date, the broadband planning process has not experienced significant setbacks and is proceeding well toward its estimated date of delivery. Region 10 is committed to consistent updating of the planning efforts as new updates materialize. As always, to stay informed of our efforts, continue to check in at region10.net/broadband.

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