Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2016

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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Page 23 of 128

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 | | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 17 live far from any population centers. A referendum in November 2014 gained 82 percent approval, and the county allocated money from its general fund to start the project. e following month, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) set aside money for networks that would connect community anchor institutions, and Rio Blanco County was one of two counties awarded first-round funding. e county originally intended to find a single partner that could build and operate the network and deliver services to residents. is approach might have worked for a larger municipality, but as it turned out, Mobley says, "there wasn't really a single company that could do all this in a small market." After some rethinking, Rio Blanco County decided to split up the project and work with several private partners. CONSTRUCTING THE NETWORK First, the county decided to contract directly with several construction partners. In July 2015, it hired Circle H Construction to build fiber to the curb in the towns of Meeker and Rangely. at construction project is nearly finished. e county also entered into an IRU, or long-term lease, for two strands of fiber between Meeker and Rangely, which are about 60 miles apart. e link between the two cities enables them to share a middle-mile connection. In spring 2016, the county contracted with Centerline Solutions to design and engineer the rural wireless network. With help from a second DOLA grant, construction of the wireless network began a few months later with the building of several new towers and the repurposing of several existing county towers. A final construction phase, which will include more than 20 small towers to reach the most remote parts of the county, is still pending approval by the commission and possible state support. "It's a modular solution," Mobley says. "We may change the implementation timeline and approach." e towers will support fixed wireless broadband with a 25 Mbps/ 5 Mbps top speed offering, using Cambium equipment operating on either unlicensed or lightly licensed frequencies. In addition, the towers are already being used by private carriers to improve cellular reception, and eventually they will be used for emergency communications as well. Another task the county took on was to create data centers in Rangely and Meeker. An empty building in Rangely became the central office and network operations center; the remodeling of the courthouse in Meeker will make room for a data center in 2017. Calix equipment is being used in the central office and at customer premises. IT TAKES A COMMUNITY To build the fiber drops, operate and maintain the network, obtain wholesale internet bandwidth and recruit and manage retail service providers, the county turned to the Colorado Fiber Community (CFC). CFC is a consortium that consists of project manager OHIvey, Blue Tail Consulting and Beehive Broadband, a Utah ISP, along with several (mostly local) design and construction partners. e county wanted to give customers a choice of retail service providers, so CFC approached the two fixed wireless broadband providers in the county, Local Access Internet and Cimarron Telecommunications, and invited them to deliver services on Rio Blanco Broadband. Both jumped at the chance. Says Paul Recanzone of CFC, "We'll allow as many providers as the market will support, but at the moment, that's two. … A handful of others in Colorado were interested, but we have indicated to them what the market conditions are, and they will wait." e retail providers were trained to install optical network terminals (ONTs) at customer premises and are now adding customers in Meeker and Rangely. In part because they already had wireless customers in the two towns and had name recognition, they Rio Blanco County chose to install a modern broadband system to provide options for county residents.

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