Friday, October 26, 2012

Jeff Gavlinski from Durango and SW Colorado Local Broadband Planning Team reports:

Frank, here in Region 9 we are also relatively new as a group but have cemented a diverse group and are starting to make some progress.

1. We are now attempting to validate the Colorado Broadband map of assets in our region to include wireline, wireless, and mobile broadband. We believe that, in order to identify underserved areas of our region, we must know what we have/don't have and where our current ISPs have submitted incorrect or exaggerated coverage and available speeds.

2. Via the City of Durango and their license agreement with Mobile Pulse, most of our team is contributing to a study of mobile data usage across our region. This is most useful on many fronts and we are fortunate to have usage across the incumbents.

This first item above will keep us very busy as a group for a while.... Hope this was informative and useful.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Has any one heard anything about new legislation? I have not. Last year we heard a lot about SB-157 which would have channeled High Cost Fund $ to broadband infrastructure. There is frequent talk of "tweaking" SB-152 to allow more public sector involvement in telecom services especially broadband. However, I have not heard of any legislator pushing any legislation.

Let us know if you hear anything. Or, what initiatives can we be pushing?

San Luis Valley Broadband Cooperative update: Yesterday (OCT 24, 2012) I attended the regular meeting of the San Luis Valley Cooperative in Alamosa. I was very pleased to hear of some of the new developments in broadband environment:

1. GoJade's fiber route from Walsenburg to Alamosa is complete. GoJade is also deploying new Canopy fixed wireless infrastructure that can deliver downloads of 90 Mbps!
2. CenturyLink's new route north out of the Valley will be complete soon.
3. Eaglenet's route along US 160 will mark the 6th middle mile route into the Valley constructed over the last two years
4. Crestone Telecom will add their 300th subsciber some time in the next few days which is the break even point for this 6-month old operation. This would have been very difficult without a $116,000 loan from the San Luis Valley Development and Resource Group. Work by Ralph and his team os on-going in Chaffee County in partnership with Skywerx.
5. San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative will soon launch their strategic plan for fiber to the meter which includes a fiber to the home San Luis Valley wide (they are the electric provider for the the whole valley except for Alamosa). The fiber will be deployed as aerial fiber on power poles in an open access network. Fiber to the home is available in Costilla county from GoJade Communications.
SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS: 6 middle miles into the Valley could make it a hot spot for data centers and other high tech industries. This is especially true if some of the power generation initiatives can deliver very low cost electricity. The cooler temps in the Valley can also be attractive to the data center industry.
I note that fiber to the home Valley-wide as well as fixed wireless 90 Mbps downloads beats the Denver and Front Range communities where fiber to the home is not available and 100 Mbps downloads from the cable TV providers are available only in select communities.
Long story short: no other part of the country is improving their broadband environment as quickly as the San Luis Valley of Colorado!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

While there may be some disagreement with the way EAGLE-Net is fulfilling its obligations under its stimulus grant, the Alliance is bringing fiber to some areas it does not currently exist and increasing capacity and redundancy in areas where it does.
Jason Wells of Silverton City was kind enough to share this letter from the Silverton School District, San Juan County, and the Town of Silverton to Senators Udall and Bennet, Representatives DeGette, Polis and Perlmutter, Larry Strickling, Representatives Walden and Lee, Jonathon Adelstein, Jessica Zufolo, and Tom Yenerell:
Dear Congressmen,
We are writing to you in response to your joint letter dated September 17th and directed to National Telecommunications & Information Administration ("NTIA") Administrator, Lawrence E. Strickling.  In this communication, you collectively called for an immediate halt to telecommunications build-out efforts currently underway across the State of Colorado through the NTIA-funded EAGLE-Net Alliance ("ENA") project.  In light of this request, we wish to advise you of our opposition to such extreme measures and of our general support for ENA's organizational mandate to bring enhanced telecommunications abilities to unserved and underserved areas such as ours.
Insofar as ENA has expressed its intent to complete a fiber optic build to our community where the entirety our communications systems has long subsisted via only a tenuous microwave link to the greater world, we feel that ENA's plans to complete this connection northward up the U.S. 550 corridor will not only serve the primary objective of affording our school system the use of much needed 21st Century technology, but also the secondary effect of providing our entire region with the infrastructure it needs to expand economically in these challenging times.  We thus feel that any cessation of ENA's progress in Southwest Colorado would necessarily dampen the prospects of positive growth in the region, thus placing us at a distinct economic disadvantage as other states and nations continue to build out their telecommunications networks in such a manner as to afford interests in both the public and private sectors crucial opportunities to succeed and aptly serve their constituencies in the global marketplace.
We recognize that ENA suffered wide criticism for purportedly not focusing resources more acutely in the most technologically disadvantaged areas of the state and we stand firmly with our other underserved mountain communities in calling for the organization to use this federal grant award as an opportunity to deliver state-of-the-art connectivity where the private sector has failed to do so.  But we feel that putting ENA's expansion plans "on hold," as you have called for, while the Department of Commerce undertakes an exhaustive audit of the program would be not only wasteful and inefficient, but counterproductive as such a measure would undoubtedly depress both the educational opportunities ENA seeks to afford as well as the secondary economic benefits that might be realized via a strong and redundant fiber connection from Durango to Grand Junction.
Though this build may not completely close what we have come to call the "Silverton Gap," its completion would mark a substantial step in that direction and stands to serve as a tremendous success story in one part of rural, underserved Colorado.  We thus view any attempt to subvert this effort and those in other underserved communities across the state as an impediment to our respective abilities to compete both educationally and commercially on a technologically even playing field.  So again, we object here to your call to put the ENA project on hold and will continue to oppose to any efforts to curtail what we view as substantial progress in the realm of telecommunications advancement.  We hope that in response to this plea, you will take our firm and united position under strong advisement as you continue to scrutinize the ENA build-out.
Local Broadband Planning Team Updates

1. FremontConnect  This team is making great progress. They have identified a carrier neutral location that is located on an existing fiber ring around Canon City. In addition, a redundant fiber connection to the outside world is planned.

2. ChaffeeConnect: One year after the first meetings, we are happy to report that Chaffee Telecom, LLC is busy constructing a redundant middle mile (Gbps+ microwave) into the county connecting Poncha Springs, Salida, Mt Princeton Hotsprings, Monarch Ski Mountain and Buena Vista. In addition, very fast (10 Mbps+) fixed wireless will be available in those markets as well.

3. CusterConnect: Six months after their first meeting this hard-charging team is exploring an aerial fiber solution to provide Westcliffe and surrounding areas with a redundant, abundant and affordable middle mile solution.

4. NW CO Broadband Cooperative: Articles of incorporation, by-laws, etc are ready to go on this cutting edge broadband team. Carrier neutral locations are planned for both Steamboat Springs and Craig. Grand County is plugged into the planning and is exploring a needs assessment.

5. San Luis Valley Broadband Cooperative: Saguache county now has a new fixed wireless service provider, Crestone Telecom, LLC building out county-wide including Center, Saguache, Villa Grove, Moffat, and Crestone. A redundant fiber link over La Veta Pass is complete (thanks GoJade!). A carrier neutral location is planned for Alamosa.

These are just the high points. I invite others to report in.

Frank Ohrtman

The Problem - Introduction

Many communities throughout Colorado recognize a need to improve telecommunications capabilities, capacity, reliability, and choice.  Much like the rail systems of the late 1800’s, today’s advanced communications infrastructures represent a means by which communities may participate in, or find themselves left out of, the global economy.  Many communities are discovering that critical telecommunications needs in their business and residential markets are going unmet.  Incumbent network owners consume limited public easement space with monopoly controlled networks.  Quarterly reporting requirements encourage these private incumbent network owners to maximize the appearance of short-term profits by delaying infrastructure upgrades and maintaining pricing models based on bandwidth scarcity. 
The financial market forces driving private incumbent network capital investment has dampened broadband availability across the nation and in, in particular, in rural areas.  Nationally, the Information and Technology Innovation Foundation has ranked the United States fifteenth out of the thirty advanced nations studied in a comparison of the quality of broadband connections based on the percentage of households with access, the speed of the connections, and costs[1].  Based on speed alone, the US ranks even lower – at 25th according to a survey by Speed Matters[2].  “Figure 1 – Global Broadband Quality and Penetration Leaders”[3] shows that while the US lags behind other developed countries in broadband measures of both quality and penetration.  In “The Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012,” the World Economic Forum ranked the US 18th in Internet users/100 population, 18th in broadband Internet subscriptions/100 population and 26th in Internet bandwidth measured as kb/s/capita (p 363)[4].
Figure 1 – Global Broadband Quality and Penetration Leaders

In rural areas of the country, in rural Colorado, the quality of broadband connections and available speeds is significantly worse than in urban areas.  Recent ad hoc studies conducted by the Colorado Broadband Data and Development Program have demonstrated that bandwidth to community anchor institutions in the Denver metropolitan area is significantly higher than in rural southwestern Colorado, as depicted in “Figure 2 – Colorado CAI Bandwidth Comparisons”.
Figure 2 – Colorado CAI Bandwidth Comparisons
The state study also showed significant per Mbps cost differences between the Denver metropolitan area and southwest Colorado.  Reported costs for T1 like services in the Denver metropolitan area average $167 per month per Mbps.  In southwest Colorado, reported costs for these same services average $438 per month per Mbps.  For larger scale purchases, monthly cost per Mbps in the Denver metropolitan area can be as low as $1.25.  The lowest reported bulk purchase price in southwest Colorado was $12 per month per Mbps.

In sum, bandwidth is less available and more costly in southwest Colorado than in Denver and more costly and less available in the US than in many other advanced countries. 

So, does it matter?  It matters a lot because speed and cost determine the opportunities for using the Internet to create jobs and maximize innovations in telemedicine, education, energy conservation, and other areas.  The National Broadband Plan states:
Not having access to broadband applications limits an individual’s ability to participate in 21st century American life.  Health care, education and other important aspects of American life are online.  What’s more, government services and democratic participation are shifting to digital platforms. [5]
Rural and urban local governments across the county and throughout Colorado have recognized the value of broadband and have determined a policy of assisting with broadband deployment may be appropriate.  Some of the policy objectives these local governments hope to accomplish by implementing broadband include:

·         Encouraging economic development through the availability of 21st century telecommunications services,
·         Improving available telecommunications services through innovation and pricing driven by private competition,
·         Improving governmental efficiencies through enhanced online services and other network capabilities,
·         Improving quality of live by creating a richer communication and entertainment environment, enhancing home business opportunities, and improving telecommuting opportunities, and
·         Closing the digital divide making service reasonably available to all citizens.

Unfortunately, many Colorado communities are faced with barriers that seem insurmountable when looking to resolve common telecommunications issues.  Large and small communities throughout the state are unclear of the limitations placed on them by Colorado’s preemptive telecommunications laws[6], they lack clear success stories with successful business plans to model themselves after, and they need to find the capital to cover what can appear to a small community to be an overwhelming implementation cost.
These posts should not only define the broadband problem Colorado's rural communities face but should also pose solutions.

[1] Atkinson, Robert D., Daniel K. Correa and Julie A. Hedlund (May 2008).  “Explaining International Broadband Leadership.”  The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.  Retrieved 12 September 2011 from
[2] Speed Matters (November 2010). “2010 – A Report on Internet Speeds in All 50 States.” Communications Workers of America; Washington DC. Retrieved 24 January 2012 from
[3] “Figure 2 – Global Broadband Quality and Penetration Leaders” and the data supporting it come from the Said Business School’s (University of Oxford) “Third Annual Broadband Study Shows Global Broadband Quality Improves by 24% in One Year” published in 2010.
[4] Said Business School, University of Oxford (1 October 2009). “Global Broadband Quality Study Shows Progress, Highlights Broadband Quality Gap: Broadband Quality Improves around the World Despite Economic Downturn.” University of Oxford; London. Retrieved 24 Feb 2012 from
[5] The National Broadband Plan can be found at

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What are the next steps for Colorado Rural Broadband?

Paul Recanzone and I were discussing this and here's a snapshot:

1. End pre-emption, ie SB-152: take away the "fear factor" for public officials to engage in the discussion of community broadband
2. Determine sustainable business models for community networks based on previous experiences
3. Identify capital sources; of note: "road retirement  fund" or 25 cents of every $5 of road maintenance monies go to a fund to build a community broadband network (could be a revolving loan fund) as one of many benefits might be taking white collar/creatives/clerical workers off the road thus decreasing demand for or wear and tear on roads. Any county or municipality with a road fund can start this as soon as they desire...


Frank Ohrtman

Several points:

1.  The FCC deregulated broadband, which, were it regulated, would be a utility as it would be subject to the Common Carriage obligations under the 1934 Communications Act.  This would mean, among other things, that (a) it would be subject to universal service; (b) providers would be subject to carrier of last resort obligations; (c) there would have to be some form of price control (and we have precedent for forward-looking cost-based pricing, which is the most reasonable approach from a public policy perspective); (d) anyone could attach any device they like to any network - wireless or wireline or cable - rather than being forced into buying device, software and services from the same vertically integrated mega-provider; and (e) would likely do a great deal of good for opening up the worst levels of market concentration we've seen in telecommunications in this country since 1912.

2.  Against this backdrop the FCC is attempting piecemeal deregulation of certain segments of the industry while gutting traditional universal service.  This is pushed very hard by AT&T (who is quietly abandoning landline), Verizon (who has sold off most of its rural/expensive landline properties) and Comcast, Cox, BrightHouse (who just sold off some of the most desirable spectrum in the country to AT&T and Verizon in exchange for tacit agreement that the AT&T and Verizon would no longer compete in landline markets) all of whom hate paying into a fund they see going primarily to the traditional incumbent landline carriers, who, like so many others, absolutely refuse to deploy fiber optic in the places where it is most needed despite being given enormous sums of taxpayer money.

3.  Overall, landline carriers are dying as a result of severely unbalanced regulation and subsidy system that let them harvest enormous direct and indirect subsides for years without having to invest and upgrade their network plant.

4.  Some smaller carriers, however, have done a pretty good job of upgrading their plant and running fiber optic.

5.  This leaves most rural communities in a bad spot; there are fewer and fewer funds available to upgrade and the subsidy systems are broken.

What this means is that we need real vision in this state.  Colorado is the nation's 8th largest state and one of the most diverse in terms of geography, climate, and population densities.  The Internet enables location-independent workers, particularly where reasonably priced, robust and redundant carrier-grade fiber optic facilities are available.  It is the very engine of economic growth and a critical input into any economy no different than road, running water, sanitation, electricity and public safety.  Given how strong the market concentration is right now, the worst thing that could happen would be for government funded entities to displace the remaining few communities and community-based providers who have upgraded their networks to fiber optic.

If this state can understand how we got to where we are while embracing a vision of investing in communications as a infrastructure rather than a business, then the government would be in a position of creating opportunities for existing carriers while also creating opportunities for community-centric economic development in ways that would serve as a model for the entire nation.

I look forward to continuing to support the carriers, communities and visionary public servants of this great state who are unafraid of the hard facts and have the courage and creativity to forge ahead with new solutions on new terms using new thinking.

The only limits are our collective creativity and courage.  As a result, I see nothing but upside for Colorado.

With every best wish,

Erik J. Cecil, Esq.
SourceLaw, PC
9769 W. 119th Dr.
Suite 32
Broomfield CO 80021
Hi All!

In case you haven't seen it, I have published my new book entitled "I'll Vote for You If You Make My Netflix Work" see

I hope to use this blog as a means for our movement to communicate across communities and drive broadband environment improvement across this great state of ours.

If you don't have a copy of the book yet, drop me a line so I can forward an ebook to you.

Have a good read,

Frank Ohrtman