Understanding the Town’s Broadband Initiative

Article by the Town of Estes Park

Frequently asked questions

The Town of Estes Park is researching and investigating the opportunities and challenges of offering broadband services in the Light & Power service area. The Town received a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to fund the engineering work for a detail plan to build a fiber optic based middle mile/broadband communications network in the Town’s Light & Power service area. Larimer County Emergency Telephone Authority (LETA911) joined the project to address 9-1-1 reliability concerns due to the lack of redundancy in our fiber optics cable, which is necessary for most telecommunications including emergency 9-1-1 services. Through its grant, LETA911 is designing a new backup fiber optic route out of Estes Park to Lyons/Longmont. Following are some of the most frequently asked questions on the project.

What is the current status and upcoming plans?

By October the detail broadband engineering work and costs should be completed. By November we will be developing potential financial models for the Town Board. By December we hope to discuss the various options with the Town Board. In addition, we received 10 responses to an advertised Request For Information asking interested parties to propose a public/private joint venture. As of July, staff are reviewing the responses. Viable proposals will be included as options for the Board to consider.

When can I get the new Broadband service?

That is unknown at this time since we are still researching the potential project. Late in 2017 the Town Board will have the opportunity to set a direction for this endeavor. Any large scale construction will take several years, with the initial customers possibly connected within a year.

Who would operate the system?

That is unknown at this time. The Town Board will consider business plans late this year.  The infrastructure owner could be separate from the company providing broadband service to customers.

What would the new service cost me?

Unknown at this time. As part of our research, we conducted a survey that, along with previous studies, shows many residential customers would prefer a rate close to what they are paying for internet service now ($40-$90 per month).

The Town is currently installing a new fiber cable to Allenspark. Does that mean they will get broadband first?

No. The purpose of the fiber installation to Allenspark is to support Estes Park Light & Power’s Smart-Grid initiative. However, we are building extra capacity to facilitate a consumer broadband option in anticipation of future needs.

Can I get on a waiting list to get the new broadband service?

No, since we are still in the research phase of this project and the outcome is not determined.

If this project proceeds, will the internet speed to my house be faster than the internet service I have now?

Having 1 Gigabit broadband service (1000 Megabits) would be significantly faster than most residents and businesses in the nation. Today, many Estes Valley residents get 2 Meg to 60 Meg service, with a few paying for 100 Megabits service or higher.  

Why is this taking so long?

It is all about the money. Preliminary estimates for building this system are in the range of $25-30 million. For the Town (or anyone) to invest that amount of money requires an understanding of the true costs and the likelihood of enough customers paying for service to recover the investment. This type of analysis takes significant time and money, itself, and it is a critical step that cannot be overlooked.

I live in Pinewood Springs, can I get service?

The scope of a potential new broadband service is currently limited to the Town’s Light and Power Service area at this time. However, LETA911 and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs are funding the engineering work for a redundant route which would be placed along U.S. 36 to Lyons, passing right by Pinewood Springs. This could mean a future opportunity for those along U.S. 36.

Will this system give us a 2nd fiber optic path for communications out of Estes Park?

Maybe. The path pursued by LETA911 from Estes Park to Lyons would provide a design for another fiber cable out of Estes Park. Platte River Power Authority is currently constructing a new redundant fiber optic path from Estes Park to Loveland which is expected to be completed within two years.

Why doesn’t a local internet service provider install fiber to the home?

While we cannot speak for other companies, the significant investment for relatively few customers is a likely barrier that has kept private companies from pursuing this project.

Will the new system become another Town Utility, like electric and water?  Will the service invoice/costs be on the same monthly Town utility bill?

These details will be considered by the Town Board late this year. One option will be to have a new Broadband Utility, just like electric and water. There are other options including public/private partnership or public/public partnership models. The business model will likely dictate how the service bills would be produced.

If this all happens, how will it be implemented? Who or which areas will be first?

This has not been determined. Some cities, which have done this before, initially focus on business areas or higher density population areas. Some have had neighborhood “contests”, to determine which areas really want it the most. Some cities initially focus on areas which have little or no existing service. The implementation strategy for our area has not yet been determined.

Are other area government agencies aware of what the Town is contemplating?

Yes. LETA911, Longmont, Ft. Collins, Loveland, Larimer County, Lyons Light and Power, Poudre Valley REA, Allenspark Fire Department, several State of Colorado departments, Platte River Power Authority and other Front Range entities are involved in or aware of this project.

For more information, contact the Town of Estes Park Utilities Department at 970-577-3588. For more information on this project, please visit the project page at www.estes.org/broadband. To receive Town news in your email inbox, please visit www.estes.org. For more Town News, please visit www.facebook.com/townofestesparkco and www.twitter.com/townofestespark.