In April of 2014 I received a call from Teller County Commissioner Norm Steen. He mentioned he was interested in setting up a “Local Tech Planning Team” with the focus being expanding broadband in rural Teller County. At the time we were well into our fiber expansion in Woodland Park, and offered our wireless service only to the area just west of Woodland Park and in Cripple Creek. I was intrigued by how a partnership with the county could benefit the community and agreed to attend the meetings.
Peak Internet was present at the first meeting of the LTPT and thought this would be good for the county. Commissioner Steen stated their only focus was to see better, faster options into the rural parts of the county, he was very clear that they didn’t want to build any towers or lay any cable. We were on board with this 100%. We stated the only reason we hadn’t expanded is that our newer, faster services required customers be within 3-4 miles of a wireless repeater site, and that we’d need a dozen or more of them throughout the county. Commissioner Steen said he’d be able to help us with getting these sites installed. After the meeting we sent him a list of locations we needed repeater sites at to begin our expansion.
We never got a reply.
Another month went by, another LPTP meeting. We again stated we had a list of sites and Commissioner Steen said to send them again. We did.
We never got a reply.
This went on for a couple more months. We even printed the emails and brought them to a meeting. Commissioner Steen looked at it, said it was odd he never got the email, then dismissed us and continued on with his meeting. The writing on the wall was clear to us at that point. This LPTP group wasn’t really interested in seeing providers like Peak Internet expand broadband into the rural county, Commissioner Steen appeared to have an agenda that didn’t include Peak Internet.
We decided that it would be worth it for us go ahead and start building our wireless network between Woodland Park and Cripple Creek on our own, so we began construction. We devised a very economical way to install monopole repeater sites which would be stealth, provide service to hundreds of homes within a 3-4 mile radius at speeds up to 40-80Mbps, and have enough spare capacity for future expansion or even lease to another provider, a cell company, or for public safety.
Months went on, we continued building sites, hiring more technicians, hooking up new customers, and the LPTP group put out a request for proposal for a study to determine what services were available in the county and where. We thought it was odd they were still going with this group since we were doing exactly what they stated their intent was—to see expanded broadband in the county. None the less we responded to the request with a bid for $0, stating we already know what services are available and where—it’s what we do. We would provide our plan for expansion to them at no cost, they would be free to do what they wanted with it. Our bid was rejected and instead a consultant out of Glenwood Springs was chosen.
To date we have installed 14 new wireless repeater sites in rural Teller County—the area between Woodland Park and Cripple Creek. We now cover thousands more homes with our broadband service than ever before. Some of these 14 sites have already been upgraded twice due to the high level of demand we have received. We’re not finished building these sites and although we had originally planned for only 18, we are now expecting to have a final total around 26. The high quantity of sites is required to deliver the ultra-fast speeds and get to a penetration of 90% of all homes covered.
While we were building and expanding our network the county and cities spent $100,000 with this Glenwood Springs consultant. The study is now complete, but seemingly didn’t take into account our wireless repeater sites, our fiber optic network, or even CenturyLink’s redundant fiber optic ring throughout the county. The final determination of the study was that the county/cities need to spend $9,000,000 to put in a single fiber optic cable between Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek. The plan is very specific that this line will only connect government buildings, it will not provide service to a single home or business—even if the line runs right past your driveway.
We met with Commissioner Steen and their consultant who put together this plan. I questioned them on the $9,000,000 cost for build. I asked if the lines were going to be overhead or underground. They stated they hadn’t determined that yet. I asked how they could put a dollar amount on a build if they didn’t yet know how they were going to build it. The next day I was told their estimated build cost went up to $11,000,000. Now they’re stating the build cost is around $15,000,000. We reached out to our own fiber design consultants for an estimate on this project—they have stated it cannot be done for any less than $50,000,000. That’s a huge difference!
The local government is restricted from building this network today because of a Senate Bill passed in 2005; Senate Bill 05-152 restricts local government from providing any sort of broadband services. It also requires the local government to provide fair and equal access to their rights-of-way (the streets) so private companies can install their own fiber optic lines, wireless repeater sites, etc. In the county and each of the cities there is a question on the ballot asking voters to allow them to exempt themselves from this law so they can get into the broadband business and restrict who accesses the rights-of-ways.
Commissioner Steen has come out and said numerous times there is no broadband in rural Teller County (again, ignoring our 14 new sites) and this line is required to bring better service to areas like Divide and Florissant. He had said that they will put the line in, then companies like Peak Internet can “tap into it” and branch off to provide service to homes and businesses. We have NO INTEREST in doing this for a number of reasons. 1) We know there is already a redundant fiber ring through the county from CenturyLink, we already buy multiple 10Gbps circuits from them today, the service we get is extremely reliable and far cheaper than what Teller County will be able to provide; 2) the line Teller County is proposing to build is a singular cable that is non-redundant and non-diverse, it runs through the occasionally troubled Ute Pass corridor, a flood of Ute Pass could take the cable out and leave services down for days, weeks, or even months, and; 3) we don’t believe the people who grade the roads, count our votes, and issue our license plates will be able to effectively manage a fiber optic network.
Without a company like ours to buy into their troubled network it will only service their own interests. At the last LPTP meeting one of the comments made was “we want to own [the fiber optic line] so we don’t have to pay for the service monthly” – the county/cities want tax payers to build them a network so they don’t have to buy service from a private Internet Provider every month like every other resident and business does. When this project goes over budget it will be the tax payers picking up the bill to complete it. When that line gets cut or goes down because of a flood it will be the tax payers picking up the bill to repair it.
We urge you, tell the county and the cities to stay out of the broadband business. Tell them instead of trying to build a network to service their own special interest, make access to the rights-of-way easier for companies like ours who are growing and expanding our network every day. We are in the business of providing broadband and we have a vested interest in connecting every single home and business in the county. Since we have begun expansion we have seen CenturyLink and TDS upgrade their networks to keep up with us. Competition is good for the consumer. More government involvement and restriction is not the answer to getting broadband into the furthest reaches of rural Teller County.
Vote No on Issue 2B in Cripple Creek.
Vote No on Issue 2C in Victor.
Vote No on Issue 2D in Woodland Park.
Vote No on Issue 1B in Teller County.
Vote No on these issues and tell the county and the cities to leave the telecom business to the telecom experts.
CEO, Peak Internet