Economic-development officials have bemoaned deficiencies in broadband capability as something standing in the way of greater prosperity for the region for years.
The problem is most pronounced in some smaller, rural communities.
But now, improvements in connectivity are slowly reaching fruition.
We have a phenomenal backbone to work with now, said Roger Zalneraitis, executive director of La Plata Economic Development Alliance.
The next hurdle to overcome is helping the regions rural communities access that infrastructure, he said.
Among the improvements made so far is a recently announced network upgrade and expansion for FastTrack Communications. The company provides wholesale and retail Internet and information transport solutions to businesses.
FastTrack expanded its information-relay capacity by more than 40 percent to 400 gigabits per second with the ability to double that capacity as demand in the region grows, said Kelly Hebbard, who recently was promoted to FastTrack general manager.
Its opened up everything, as if the broadband network in the region could breathe again, Hebbard said.
Hebbard said the upgrades became necessary last year as demand soared beyond what the company could provide customers. In part, the need stems from an increasingly technology-driven world where people and businesses are moving more data and larger digital files through the regions network of broadband fiber-optic lines.
FastTrack also expanded the network to Denver from its previous stopping point in Grand Junction. The network extends southward to Albuquerque.
The expansion means local companies with additional offices or locations in those cities or between can have an internal network connection allowing for private transport of information without the involvement of another data carrier, Hebbard said. It will help keep costs for FastTrack customers down in the years ahead, she said.
The expansion also means Internet providers serving some isolated communities along the route, such as Nucla and Montrose, will, for the first time, be able to tap into and serve customers using a fiber-optic broadband network, a news release said.
Despite a rough start, Phil Bryson, owner of Brainstorm Communications, a FastTrack wholesale customer, said the work that FastTrack has accomplished in recent years is a critical step for economic-development efforts on the Western Slope.
It really has made a difference for the area, Bryson said, adding that Durango and its surrounding communities would be even further behind the nation in broadband connectivity without it. Virtually everyone around here is using that fiber.
Brysons company will be among those taking advantage of the additional bandwidth now available through FastTrack, he said.
This expansion is good for them, good for the community and good for us, Bryson said.
With seven employees and plans to add up to three more full-time positions this year, FastTrack Chairman of the Board Joe Wheeling touted the companys potential for economic impact as it grows.
FastTrack is creating well-paying jobs in our community, Wheeling said. This is the type of clean industry that provides solid economic development.
Wheeling predicted the company will soon join the ranks of the areas many home-grown business success stories.