This introductory report from the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG) Regional Broadband planning team explains how and why this initiative started, where we are today, and plans for the future. Subsequent reports released by NWCCOG will focus on current progress and milestones.
In 2013 the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments undertook the development of a regional broadband strategic plan with the intent of improving broadband throughout the region for three primary reasons:
The regional participants include all of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments members (Eagle, Grand, Jackson, Pitkin and Summit Counties; most municipalities in those counties; Steamboat Springs; Glenwood Springs; and Carbondale). Additionally, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt Counties chose to participate.
Each county appointed a representative to serve on a Broadband Steering Committee to help guide the efforts of the NWCCOG Broadband program. This committee still meets on an as- needed basis to share successes, work items, and Broadband initiatives and challenges in their communities.
With assistance from a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant, NWCCOG issued an RFP and selected Mid States Consultants, with Paul Reconzone from OHIvey as the project lead, to create a strategic plan for the region. The final Regional Broadband Strategic Plan was completed in December 2013.
In early 2014, NWCCOG transitioned its Broadband program from strategic planning to initiative driven implementation. Nate Walowitz was hired as the NWCCOG Regional Broadband Coordinator in April to lead this effort. A Regional Project Plan was quickly developed using recommendations from the overall strategic plan, as well as meetings and site visits with all of the region’s governmental stakeholders.
Funding for the development of the Strategic Plan and the Regional Broadband Coordinator position is provided, in part, through a grant from DOLA.
In June 2014, the NWCCOG Broadband Steering Committee approved a project plan that included 23 initiatives to be implemented in 2014 and 2015. Progress on these initiatives is being accomplished through close teamwork with our governmental and Economic Development District partners. To date, the NWCCOG team has made significant progress on the following projects:
The team continues to forge close relationships with multiple levels of government officials and existing or potential service providers. This has allowed NWCCOG to develop synergistic conversations and relationships which benefit broadband initiatives within each of our jurisdictions and the region as a whole.
NWCCOG is working to address some common challenges across the region. The lack of population density, distance between population centers, and our mountainous terrain clearly affects the business case for service providers planning to create or extend their Broadband infrastructure in our region. To help off-set these economic factors, we are working closely with our stakeholders, service providers and the State Office of Information Technology to coordinate and prepare responses for FCC Rural Broadband Expansion Experiments funding.
In an effort to create a common operating picture for the NW Region, NWCCOG hosted a Broadband Workshop on August 18th. The workshop brought together county commissioners, planners, IT and economic development officials to share their approaches to telecommunications with the intent to develop a common understanding of the impacts that planning and zoning requirements can have on the economics of deploying broadband wireless communications systems. The governmental representatives also had an opportunity to share their broadband needs with service providers and to learn from them how local governments can ease deployment challenges for expanded rural broadband installation.
Finally, NWCCOG is actively engaging with regional and local economic development councils to understand the population, visitor, and business metrics for each area and how Broadband availability and performance affects each community.
As you can see, the undertaking is enormous but essential in order to create a sustainable business model for our communities. We look forward to making significant progress throughout the coming months.