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Regional Spotlight: Upper Arkansas

posted Jul 31, 2014, 10:08 AM by Megan Chadwick Gernert - OIT   [ updated Jul 31, 2014, 10:08 AM ]

The Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments (UAACOG) was recently awarded a planning grant through the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) to develop a regional broadband strategic plan. Each of the five counties participating in this planning process, including Custer, Chaffee, Fremont, Lake, and Park counties, has an established Local Technology Planning Team (LTPT).  The LTPTs have made significant progress over the years, but have decided to pursue a regional planning project in order to ensure greater coordination and utilization of resources through the region.

Below are a collection of stories about projects and efforts from Fremont Connect, Chaffee Connect, and Park Connect.  These stories show the progress and capability of these LTPTs.  


Broadband in Chaffee County: What’s Next?

The Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation took the lead in developing a strategy that has led to deployment of a fixed wireless solution for redundancy throughout the County. The development and implementation of the strategy which took approximately fifteen months, grants from the Freeport McMoran/Climax Corporation and the Department of Local Affairs, led to the eventual deployment approximately eighteen months ago. Several hundred residents and businesses are now taking advantage of high speed Internet.

As a result of the Fourth Annual Mountain Connect Conference, the State Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Department of Local Affairs Regional Broadband Planning efforts, the County is now focused on what comes next. Two “Expressions of Interest” in response to the FCC’s earlier request have been submitted that will serve the unserved and underserved areas of the County. 

The lessons learned from our efforts to date are as follows. Be clear on your goals and champion them to key stakeholders and carriers. Two, at the end of the day, a good business case and customers are the difference between succeeding and not succeeding. Finally, utilize resources and connections developed on your journey to make the right decision with the right carrier(s) regarding deployment. 

The next phase of our efforts will be deployment to the unserved and underserved areas of the County by aligning key resources and interests. Aggregating demand among the anchor institutions and projecting the demand for broadband into the future will be critical to our efforts as we move toward becoming a “gig a bit” community. The best of luck in your efforts and contact us if you need encouragement!


A Win for Park County, A Win for Guffey

Guffey:  8,700 feet above sea level. Founded in 1894. 

Driving into Guffey from any direction is like stepping back a hundred years in time. Several 19th-century structures are still occupied while others, though vacant, appear as if they are occupied. If a place exists that may be considered “Genuine Colorado,” Guffey reflects both the spirit and appearance. Located in the southern end of the county, Guffey has a general store/saloon, restaurant, elementary school, community center, public library, small museum, and real estate offices. In spite of its small size, Guffey is a center of activity for nearby ranches, subdivisions and small cottage industries. The nearest urban area is Canon City located 33 miles southeast of town on Highway 9. 

One of the challenges this small community faced was the lack of broadband. Commissioner Mike Brazell and Guffey Community Charter School Administrator Pam Moore teamed up with Park County Government and members of the community to develop a strategy for broadband deployment. With a $10,000 grant from the El Pomar Foundation and contributions from the community, including a $5,000 matching grant from the Big Bear Ranch, a $25,000 Conservation Trust Fund Grant from Park County, and cooperation and support from the local provider, South Park Telephone managed by Dave Shipley, the community will realize the benefit of high speed Internet. This is truly a win for the residents of Guffey and Park County, and a win for the State of Colorado and its efforts to facilitate deployment of broadband to unserved and underserved areas of the State. Congratulations to all the stakeholders that made it happen. 


FremontConnect Sponsors Digital Literacy Workshops

FremontConnect views one of its purposes as providing digital literacy and education workshops for the community. We believe people don’t always know what they don’t know until they are made aware. During the summer of 2013 Fremont Connect worked with team members and the SBDC to provide several free workshops for the community. 

We heard quite a bit of talk in the community about how businesses, especially business chains, are now accepting applications online only and yet many people do not know how to create and submit applications online. Both job seekers and the professionals who work at the Colorado Workforce Center verified the understanding of online job searches is a need in our community. The first workshop we offered in 2013 was on “How to Look for a Job” presented by the Colorado Workforce Center staff. 

We also had experienced a devastating fire at the Royal Gorge Bridge, a significant economic driver for the community. The remaining businesses in town knew they needed help with marketing immediately and began to look to social media as a quick way of advertising their goods and services. We engaged the Small Business Development Center to provide two workshops. The first was a general workshop on the basics of social media. The other was specifically on how to use social media to promote business. We quickly learned we did not devote enough time to either.

The other topics were “What is the Cloud and How Will it Affect My Business” and “Digital Security and Safe Practices”. 

The workshops were well received and we had an average of 8-10 people attending. 

This year we partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and SBDC and the local newspaper to sponsor three workshops. We went into much more detail on the social media topics and did “Facebook Fundamentals for Business”, “LinkedIn Fundamentals for Business”, and “Twitter Fundamentals for Business”. The first workshop had a great turnout of about 40 people. 

We anticipate doing more workshops next year and always welcome feedback from the community on what topics the community would like to hear about.


Fremont Connect hosts “Broadband Begins Here” Event

From the beginning of Fremont Connect, the team had a vision for bringing the business community and the broadband provider community together to talk about the realities of broadband service in the various areas of the county and to explore the possibilities of expansion and enhancement. In March of 2014 we made that vision a reality as we worked with the Fremont Economic Development Corporation to host the Broadband Begins Here summit.

Broadband internet providers from across the region worked shoulder-to-shoulder with local business representatives and interested citizens to analyze present and future broadband needs. The day’s activities began with a symposium involving representatives from Charter, SECOM, Vision Wireless, Cityless Internet Service, and BySky. The event allowed business people to ask questions about broadband in an environment where professionals were able to respond immediately. Business owners were able to express their frustrations, tell their internet war stories and gain knowledge of what the words and numbers mean.

After the symposium, participants rotated through the following workshops on the fundamentals of broadband:

  • Broadband 101 – What does it all mean?
  • The Cloud; Who Needs It and Why?
  • The Importance of Security
  • E-Commerce

The day concluded with a panel of internet providers talking about what they heard during the day and informing the business community of how their needs can be met now or what they can do to improve capacity in the future.

The event also included a mini trade-show where broadband providers showcased their products and capabilities. Fremont Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Rob Brown said the availability of adequate broadband is the single most important attribute Fremont County must be able to offer any organization considering relocating a business to the area.  “Broadband is always a significant challenge for Fremont County business acquisition efforts,” he said. “Every discussion with a business that is considering Fremont County begins with the availability and quality of the local broadband.” Brown said providers must understand the broadband needs of the community and Fremont County’s willingness to commit to those needs in order to have the confidence required to make the investment in infrastructure.

Those attending had very positive comments about the value of the day. Many were surprised at how many options they actually have for broadband access.