Garfield County broadband surveys on the way
Garfield County is surveying residents and business owners to get a sense of the area’s broadband needs in preparation for a potential overhaul of broadband infrastructure.
The surveys will help the county gauge available internet services and where they fall short, how customers use the internet, what they pay and to what speeds they have access. Surveys will also ask what customers would be willing to pay for high-speed internet and what they believe the local government’s role should be in providing it.
The county plans to take this information and make a map of internet speeds, showing the locations with the best and worst connectivity.
Following the surveys will be a series of community meetings to help commissioners decide how deeply they want to wade into providing internet services.
Commissioners have already said they don’t want to go so far as to become the county’s internet provider, the most involved approach. So they’re left with deciding how they’ll approach partnerships with the private sector.
The county’s looking for input from “businesses, professionals, community and health services providers, educators, government officials, citizens, internet service providers/carriers and legislative representatives” to develop this broadband plan, according to a press release.
Public meetings with segments for each of these groups will be held June 3 at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library and June 10 at the Rifle Branch Library. And two more meetings for the general public will be on June 15 at the Carbondale Branch Library and June 16 at the New Castle Branch Library.
NEO Fiber is a Glenwood Springs contractor the county hired to conduct the “broadband needs assessment and strategic plan study.” Garfield and Mesa counties partnered in an application for a $150,000 grant from the Department of Local Affairs for the study. They were awarded that grant in the fall, and each county contributed another $25,000.
Commissioners are considering a ballot question for the November election in which voters would be asked to opt out of a 2005 state law barring local governments from getting into the telecommunications business. Diane Kruse, CEO of NEO Fiber, told commissioners in previous meetings that each of the county’s municipalities would also have to hold elections opting out of the state law.
Colorado Mountain College won approval to do so last year.
The survey will be distributed via email through the chambers of commerce and municipalities. They’ll also be available through the county’s website at http://www.garfield-county.com.
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