Glenwood working toward installing a new broadband system over the next two years

The Glenwood Springs City Council, using the online videoconferencing platform Zoom, voted Thursday to move forward with the installation of 150 miles worth of broadband fiber throughout Glenwood Springs.

“Having broadband available to all of our customers and to our city is important infrastructure,” Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup said. “Even more so over the past few years and highlighted by this pandemic that we’re in right now.”

During Thursday’s regularly scheduled council meeting, in a series of 6-1 votes, council approved moving forward with the broadband project.

Kaup, Mayor Jonathan Godes and Councilors Steve Davis, Paula Stepp, Rick Voorhees and Charlie Willman voted in favor; Councilor Tony Hershey voted against it.

“I really don’t think that this is the proper role of government,” Hershey said. “This is a job for the private sector.”

According to Public Works Director Matthew Langhorst, the city’s current broadband system services predominantly businesses but also a few residents.

The new broadband system would replace the existing one and have the ability to provide fiber internet service to every business and residence in Glenwood Springs.

According to Langhorst, much of the city’s existing fiber has reached its 20-year lifespan.

The city’s nearly 300 broadband customers would be switched over to the new infrastructure with minimal disruptions, if any, Langhorst explained.

The new broadband system, like the existing one, would also provide phone and internet service.

“Up to one-gigabyte speed capacity at their home or their business,” Langhorst said.

Including residences and commercial businesses, the new broadband system would pass approximately 4,800 potential customers.

Langhorst said fiber would be laid over the city’s existing electrical system both above and underground.

“We don’t have to rip up roads,” Langhorst said. “Basically, we would just be pulling wire through the conduit that already exists.”

In January, the city issued a request for proposal (RFP) seeking $9 million to finance the project, which it would pay off over 20 years.

Should financing come through as planned, installing the broadband fiber would take at least 2 years with work tentatively scheduled to begin in June or July.

Council received two qualified responses to its RFP and directed staff to pursue an offer from Alpine Bank.

According to a staff report, the city would pay $202,500 for the first three years and $640,000 for the remaining 17 years.

Now in the underwriting process, Boyd anticipated bringing back a final financing package for council consideration in about five weeks.

“The idea is broadband will pay for itself,” Steve Boyd, Glenwood Springs Chief Operating Officer, said. “Broadband is going to be a utility that stands on its own just like water, wastewater and our electric fund.”

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