Colorado fund pays $ millions to build small town & rural fiberoptic Internet service in nearby towns



Town of Rico opinion survey will ask if citizens to consider a property tax increase to pay for fiberoptic cable

broken image

Fiberoptic cable marker and pullbox adjacent to Colorado Highway 145 west of Norwood, looking west.  Wide highway right-of-way allowed for trenching and installation of two fiberoptic cables in conduit by two internet service providers (ISPs).

Ore Cart photo - April 22, 2021

Town of Rico Board of Trustees approved questions for a public opinion survey about property tax increase proposals at its regular monthly meeting, April 22, 2021.  One of the questions asks for citizens to consider a property tax increase to pay for installing fiberoptic cable in Rico to improve Internet service:

Question 4 Improving internet service to the Town would likely require the installation of fiber optics throughout the Town. Based on an estimated tax increase of approximately 12.8 mills or 17.3% for this upgrade, would you be willing to vote for a mill levy increase to support internet improvements?

The 17.3% increase is a comparison to the present total mill levy paid by Rico property owners to all local government jurisdictions which provide services to Rico.  These are listed in the Trustees meeting packet:

4. In addition to the 18.744 (total) mill levies that are specific to the Town of Rico there are also other taxing entities to which the Town property owners are subject. They are the following:

broken image

- - -

Compared to Town of Rico's present 18.744 property tax mill levy, the proposed 12.8 mills increase for fiberoptic cable is 68%.  The fiberoptic tax would be greater than all of the other individual property taxes except Town of Rico, Dolores County General Fund, and Dolores County School District.

Did other SW Colorado towns need property taxes to get better Internet service?

Two Internet service providers offer fiber-to-the-premises in Norwood, Colorado: Clearnetworx (Montrose) and  Clearneworx lists its current residential plans in effect on the date of this report at its website.  The base plan is $60 per month with speeds up to 200 Mbps download and upload.

Clearnetworx also offers wireless internet service outside of towns where it provides fiberoptic service.

Ore Cart asked the Norwood Town Manager April 22 if a property tax increase was needed to pay for fiberoptic Internet service installation in Norwood.  Answer: NO.  Both ISPs installed conduit for fiberoptic cable in trenches excavated for Norwood's raw water (lawn sprinklers and gardens) distribution system.  Both ISPs installed fiberoptic cable from Nucla to Norwood in a trench which one of the ISPs excavated.

What is the funding source for fiberoptic cables between and in rural Colorado towns?

The screenshot image below is from the Colorado Broadband Office Applications Received page, showing applications received for the most recent cycle which ended in March 2021:

broken image

- - -

The next image is from Clearnetworx's Winter 2021 Broadband Fund Application for Elk Meadows.  The project cost estimate is $1.47 million.  Grant funds requested is $1.1 million, or 75% of total cost.  The number of households to be served is 106.  Cost per servicable address is $10,450.  Monthly consumer cost for 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) service is $60.

broken image

- - -

The budget included in Clearnetworx's Elk Meadows application indicates that the applicant is required to provide 25% matching funds.  The total match is $369,233. Elsewhere in the application, Clearnetworx describes the area to be served as rural and outside of municipal boundaries, which indicates that no municipal property tax revenues are included in the matching funds.

broken image

The latest Rico Internet developments

Town manager Kari Distefano reported to the Board of Trustees Wednesday night on the interest, or lack of interest, shown by ISPs in upgrading service to Rico:

  • Clearnetworx expressed an interest in providing Rico Internet service earlier in 2021, but has since been silent.
  • Emory Communications (Utah) expressed an interest in providing Rico Internet service earlier in 2021, but has since been silent.
  • Current telephone and Internet service provider Direct Communications (Idaho) recently requested a CAD map of Rico streets.
  • Centurylink offered to extend fiberoptic cable from the end of its cable near the Ophir Curve to Rico, if Rico would pay half of the cost.  Centurlink would not provide local service in Rico.

- - -

Centurylink's previous disinterest in upgrading its telephone plus internet service in rural Colorado is the reason why new ISPs have moved in.

Is satellite internet available with comparable cost and speed?

Starlink is taking orders for service availability mid'- to late-2021.  Costs listed at date of this report are $499 hardware purchase, $99 monthly service charge.

Startlink is a division of SpaceX.  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) topics include Clear Field of Vision, which should be reviewed before placing an order.