The arrival of high-speed internet has been less than speedy for some residents in Southwest Colorado, including a small village near the La Plata-San Juan county line.
But residents and businesses at Cascade Village north of Purgatory Resort are getting hooked up to high-speed internet for the first time this month.
Before the arrival of grant-funded fiber-optic lines, residents and visitors to Cascade Village in San Juan County were reliant on dial-up speed service, said Charlie Tyack, facilities manager and full-time resident.
“What we had was almost nonexistent,” he said.
If the village was busy, Tyack wouldn’t even bother trying to use the internet, he said.
Streaming videos or other content was out of the question at the village, said Sid Arnold, Western Slope operations manager for Brainstorm Internet. Brainstorm was the existing internet provider for the village and put in the new fiber lines.
The sluggish speeds and trouble streaming will be history for all 260 units in the village after July, when Brainstorm finishes installing fiber-optic lines, Arnold said.
“It just brings Cascade Village right up to the forefront of cutting edge,” said Tom Brunner, a former HOA board member at Cascade.
Bridging the 2-mile fiber-optic line gap between Purgatory and the Cascade homes required $455,000, an investment that no private company was likely to make without a grant, Arnold said.
The project couldn’t rely on fiber-optic lines that brought faster internet service to Silverton because they were installed on Tri-State Generation and Transmission power lines that cut through the forest and don’t come close enough to Cascade Village to serve the area, Arnold said.
So Brunner worked with Arnold to apply for a state grant to cover some of the construction cost.
The Colorado Broadband Fund provided $268,500 for the project, San Juan County provided $20,000 and Brainstorm provided about $20,000 through in-kind contributions. The Cascade Village HOA covered the remainder of the cost, Arnold said.
Broadband fund grants typically require a 25% match, but Brainstorm tries to contribute more to be more competitive, he said.
Brunner said he expects the project to increase economic activity for Cascade by drawing in more visitors.
“Wi-Fi is probably more important than a fireplace, I mean really,” he said.
San Juan County was persuaded to contribute because of the potential for economic development, he said.
“They knew it was a problem to have their largest lodging facility to have dial-up speed internet,” he said.
Brainstorm is interested in reaching subdivisions with similar dial-up speeds with the help of grants, Arnold said.
Rockwood, a neighborhood north of Hermosa, and Deer Valley, a subdivision east of Bayfield, could both be good candidates for grant-funded fiber projects, he said.