State grant to help provide broadband to rural areas of Pitkin County |

State grant to help provide broadband to rural areas of Pitkin County

Pitkin County has received a nearly $900,000 grant from the state of Colorado to build broadband infrastructure for rural areas of the county, an official said Thursday.

The grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs will be matched by an equal grant from the county, which will come from a mill levy-funded translator fund and other monies, said Kara Silbernagel, county management analyst.

The $1.8 million will allow the county to rebuild three high-alpine translator sites, the first step toward providing broadband service to the Crystal River and Fryingpan River drainages, she said.

The effort also is part of the county’s plans to introduce a new digital public safety radio system. Piggy-backing the broadband infrastructure on the new public safety radio system will save the county millions of dollars, County Manager Jon Peacock has said.

County officials must get approvals from the U.S. Forest Service for the construction at the translator sites, Silbernagel said. Because two of the sites are accessible by helicopter only, construction probably won’t begin until July on all three sites, she said.

Residents of the Crystal and Fryingpan drainages can expect broadband service sometime in 2018, Silbernagel said.

In November 2015, Pitkin County voters by a landslide approved a measure that allows the county to provide the broadband service to rural areas where it isn’t available. Voter approval allowed the county to opt out of a 2005 state Senate bill that forbids governments from competing with the private sector in providing broadband service.

Aspen city voters approved a similar measure last month by a nearly 10-to-1 ratio.

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