Frustrated with their antiquated and deteriorating internet service, Jim Wiler and his neighbors in the rural Deer Valley Estates subdivision east of Bayfield began searching for better options.
It took more than three years since they first began making inquiries, but with the help of AlignTec, a small local internet provider with six full-time employees and a $593,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, the Deer Valley residents discovered a path leading to speedier internet service.
“We’ve had bad service for a very long time,” Wiler said.
The neighborhood’s original internet network has deteriorated over the years, he said.
Orion Lukasik, CEO of AlignTec, said the 60-plus homes in the subdivision are now lucky if they can get between 1 and 2 megabytes per second.
“The biggest problem is, it’s not consistent from moment to moment,” Lukasik said.
The residents looked for other providers, but Wiler said CenturyLink was not interested in serving the rural area and wireless service wouldn’t work. Many of his neighbors used a satellite network provider as one way to bypass the deteriorating local network, but satellite service can be interrupted by weather and frequently couldn’t deliver on promised speeds, Wiler said.
The subdivision – heavily wooded in rugged topography – could not be adequately served with wireless links, and Wiler said the fiber-optic network the grant will fund is the appropriate infrastructure needed to meet the subdivision’s internet needs. The grant funding from DORA will allow replacement of the existing system with a hybrid link – a neighborhood fiber-optic line to each of the homes that leads to a microwave feed to connect the neighborhood to the outside internet world.
The project is expected to provide internet speeds of 50 mbps in Deer Valley when it is built in late 2018 or early 2019. “The community got really involved in driving the process,” Lukasik said. “If they hadn’t worked on the grant process, it wouldn’t have happened. We’re a small company. It would have been beyond our ability.”
Wiler said several Deer Valley neighbors worked with AlignTec on the grant application process, which he described as long, complicated and involved. Down the road, when more rural fiber-optic lines are available to fill in what Lukasik called the “middle mile” link in the internet loop serving the neighborhood, the Deer Valley homes will be able to enjoy internet speeds even faster than 50 mbps.
Lukasik said the Deer Valley project demonstrates that despite obstacles in rural Southwest Colorado, internet service can be improved.
“This shows one way to get it done. It stands as an example. Hopefully, it generates more interest and conversations locally to find ways to get it done,” he said.