State awards grants to improve Internet access in rural areas

DENVER — Weld County is one of 10 counties in which Internet users will benefit from a grant issued by the state that will be used to provide broadband Internet service in rural areas.

The Broadband Deployment Board within the Department of Regulatory Agencies on Tuesday announced that it has awarded $2.1 million in grants.

Seven broadband providers were awarded funds for eight infrastructure projects that will be completed over the next two years. As a result, more than 4,700 households and 175 businesses in Eagle, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lake, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray, Prowers, Sedgwick and Weld counties are expected to benefit from broadband Internet ​access.

CenturyLink Inc. received a $299,156 grant to upgrade digital subscriber line, or DSL, equipment and associated fiber-optic cable to provide broadband service to approximately 1,000 locations in and near Hudson and Keenesburg in Weld.

Recipients of these awards will provide broadband service, defined as at least 25-megabits download and 3-megabits upload, at a reasonable cost to the consumer.

“These grants will bring more than broadband services to many unserved communities; they will also grow opportunity for their local businesses and residents,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement.

The grant program is competitive, and funding is considered for projects that are cost-effective and provide substantial benefits to currently unserved communities. According to the 2015 Federal Communications Commission report Broadband Availability in America, 71 percent of Coloradans living in rural areas lack access to broadband Internet compared to just 10 percent in urban areas.

Other grants awarded:

Nucla-Naturita Telephone Co. ($43,334)

The project will upgrade wireless network equipment supplying digital subscriber line (DSL) customers with broadband access in the Nucla area.

NE Colorado Cellular Inc., dba Viaero Wireless ($395,492)

Construction of two new towers and installation of equipment to provide wireless broadband access within a 334-square-mile coverage area in Kiowa, Prowers and Cheyenne counties.

Chaffee County Telecom LLC, dba Colorado Central Telecom ($288,338)

The project will provide last-mile service to approximately 425 households in Twin Lakes and unincorporated areas of southern Lake County. The expansion consists of wireless service utilizing a proposed new tower and two other sites.

CenturyLink Inc. ($841,200)

The project will upgrade DSL equipment and associated fiber optic cable to provide Broadband service to the town of Ridgway serving approximately 1,000 customers.

PC Telcorp Inc., dba PC Telcom ($55,400)

The project will upgrade existing wireless equipment at two locations providing broadband access to approximately 392 households in Sedgwick County.

Optimus Communications LLC ($112,500)

The project will use existing cable infrastructure to provide broadband in Collbran and Molina. Wireless service will be provided to customers in the surrounding areas that aren’t accessible by the cable system. The system will support approximately 1,500 broadband customers over cable and 400 broadband customers over wireless.

Futurum Communications Corp., dba, Brainstorm Internet ($70,103)

The project will construct middle-mile infrastructure to an existing tower and provide last-mile wireless service to approximately 109 households in the town of Red Cliff.