Jason Cook of the Montrose-based OneTrack Communications telecom construction company presented a business plan to the Ridgway Town Council on Oct. 9 to utilize obsolete cable TV infrastructure that has been dormant for the past five to 10 years as a foundation upon which deliver high-speed internet into Ridgway’s homes and businesses.
He would be tapping into broadband infrastructure brought to Ridgway last year via the EAGLE-Net Alliance, which was charged with building a statewide high-speed fiberoptic network touted as having the potential to dramatically improve rural broadband service to many communities on the Western Slope and across the state.
The EAGLE-Net project is designed to allow collaborations with so-called “last mile” Internet service providers which are able to use EAGLE-Net's “middle mile” broadband infrastructure (for a fee) under open-access provisions to transport internet bandwidth to customers in rural areas.
Until now, EAGLE-Net’s infrastructure has remained largely dormant, mainly due to a months-long suspension imposed on it by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, due to environmental permitting problems.
But with the suspension now lifted, the fiber is ready to be lit up, and Cook is ready to take the next step, splicing into EAGLE-Net’s “fiberoptic freeway” and creating off-ramps to deliver high-speed internet to local customers.
“We are interested in reusing [the old cable television assets] to deliver new technology to town,” Cook said. And, he added, “We are ready to take orders for service.”
His company can provide anywhere from 10 mb to a gig of bandwidth, he said, with “plenty of room to grow.”
Cook is currently working with Ridgway Town Manager Jen Coats to map the old cable infrastructure (poles, pole attachments, cables and so on) and reaching out to property owners to bring them up to speed, so to speak, on what is going on.
With the mapping already well underway, Cook said that depending on the weather, “we can start removing the old cable (and replacing it with fiber) at any time.”
The proposal includes “making everything right with the agencies involved, including the rural utility service and San Miguel Power Association to maintain standards for pole attachments,” Cook said.
EAGLE-Net brought fiberoptic trunk lines to the perimeter of the Ridgway Town Hall last fall. OneTrack will place equipment there to transition into its private network.
The Town Hall and a few other EAGLE-Net anchor customers thus present an easy connection opportunity that will see an immediate benefit, Cook said. He is also hoping to attract other local government entities such as Ouray County and the Ridgway Marshal’s Office as future customers in addition to individual homes and businesses.
Cook stressed that by increasing competition and offering good rates, his company’s presence in the area may have the effect of forcing telecom giants that already have a foothold here “to provide more, better services.”
Ridgway Mayor John Clark hailed Cook’s plan as “huge for economic development.”
“We have heard for years that people would be more interested in moving here if we had more reliable, faster Internet speeds,” he said. “I am really excited about the opportunity here, and I can’t wait for you to provide service.”
RIDGWAY SEEKS OPTIONS ON ENERGY AUDIT
Mark Holmes, representing Energy Services Group, an energy performance contracting company, made a presentation to the Ridgway Town Council last week, seeking the opportunity to conduct a technical energy audit for the town, and the chance to enter into a performance contract to execute facilities upgrades and make them more energy efficient.
Performance contracting is a procurement tool that enables customers (mostly government entities) to use future energy savings to pay for the up-front costs of energy savings projects through a “guaranteed” savings program.
The Town of Ridgway and the City of Ouray took steps to jointly enter into such a contract with a different energy performance contracting company two years ago, but that venture foundered when the company was unable to find financing for the project.
This time, Holmes said, ESG is confident that financing is available, and, he added, his company is comfortable taking on smaller projects with individual municipalities. The City of Ouray entered into an agreement earlier this month for ESG to conduct a technical energy audit on its facilities. If Ridgway comes on board, the two projects could be combined, he said, but each would also be viable on its own as far as his company is concerned.
“The idea is we would help you find energy utility cost and maintenance savings, and the savings would pay for the project,” he said.
Councilor Eric Johnson pointed out that “if we were to go forward with a letter of intent (for ESG to conduct a Technical Energy Audit) but decide not to go forward with project, we would be on the hook for $9,000, but if we do go forward with project, the energy savings are guaranteed.”
Town Manager Jen Coates told council that a similar service is being offered by a company in Mountain Village. “We would be remiss not to explore that opportunity,” she said, recommending that council give her 30 days to do so. She will then come back to council in November with a recommendation.
ZONING REGS, WATER RATE HIKE, STREETSCAPE AND MORE
In other action at last week’s Ridgway Town Council meeting, council:
Discussed amending the town’s zoning regulations pertaining to short term rentals in the business district, to allow two vacation rentals to exist in a single building.
Moved to annex a long, skinny strip of land at the Ouray County Fairgrounds, sandwiched between private property and the fairgrounds (which are in the county’s jurisdiction).
Approved a $5 increase in the user fee for the town’s water service, with the new income helping to pay for the town’s Lake Otonowanda project. The current rate is $37 for a single family and the new rate will be $42.
Discussed revitalizing the Streetscape committee and agreed to schedule a facilitated community discussion sometime in the next few months to move that effort forward.
Heard an update on Ridgway’s search for a “sister city,” and agreed to move explore establishing such a relationship with the city of La Palma, a community in the highlands of El Salvador with a vibrant arts culture.