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:
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.