The Wet Mountain Valley has had trouble with internet access for years. Dale Mullen and Charles Bogle, from the Local Technology Planning Team (LTPT), approached the county commissioners on Monday, March 3, with an opportunity to get broadband to residents.
Before the meeting began, the commissioner’s room at the courthouse quickly filled up. Some had no other choice but to pull up a chair in the hallway. All had come in support for the broadband proposal, including commissioner candidate Bob Kattnig and sheriff candidate Eric Thompson.
Bogle, LTPT chairman, explained that Colorado’s Department of Local Affairs and Office of Information is offering a grant. The maximum would be $75,000 with a $25,000 match for Custer County to hire a consulting firm to develop a regional broadband strategic plan.
The five participating counties are Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Lake and Park. Each has proposed to contribute $5,000 maximum toward the matching fund.
If Custer County gets broadband, it may be set up in short towers throughout the Valley. The fiber optics used will allow valley residents to send and download large computer files at a faster speed.
“This was not budgeted,” said Commissioner Lynn Atteberry. “There’s folk here still with a dial-up system.”
“Kids growing up in rural areas,” Mullen said, “would be given the same opportunities as kids living on the Front Range.”
Bogle explained that next year Custer County will need more internet capability than this year.
Atteberry made a motion to approve the request but not commit the county to all $5,000. Commissioner Kit Shy seconded the motion.
“This is not a question about how much money this will cost,” Kattnig stood to say. “We need this in the county. Internet access is our keystone for growth in the next 20 years.”
Frank Oberlin, president of Critical Path Metalworks in Silver Cliff, offered to donate $1,000 to the $5,000 requested to get Custer County to the broadband table.
“Last week I had a Skype meeting with someone in Australia,” Bogle said. “This is a basic necessity, like electricity, telephones and roads.”
Atteberry’s motion to approve the request, without committing $5,000, was approved. It was followed by applause throughout the room.
Bogle and Mullen will meet with DOLA and OIT again on March 11 in Salida to further define grant guidelines.