High-speed Internet, a staple in most cities, is coming to more La Plata County homes over the next three years.
La Plata County Economic Development Alliance is working with an area company to bring in better Internet infrastructure because it is a major economic driver, and it draws in many employees that can work from home.
The alliance is working with SkyWerx to bring broadband Internet to most county homes that do not have access, said Roger Zalneraitis, the executive director of the alliance.
SkyWerx already has finished installing infrastructure to serve some homes in Forest Lakes this year. The company also plans to bring better service to the homes along Florida Road from Durango to Forest Lakes; Vallecito; north Animas Valley; and the southern half of La Plata County.
The alliance did not sign a contract with SkyWerx, but the company did make a commitment to bringing in the infrastructure and providing the service, said Jeffrey Gavlinski, the director of sales and marketing for the Pagosa Springs-based company. It is unlikely companies will be able to lease the infrastructure from SkyWerx.
“It is going to help out the county from an economic perspective,” Gavlinski said.
La Plata County is among the top 20 counties for the highest percentage of home-based workers in the country, Zalneraitis said.
Increasing the geographic reach of high-speed Internet creates more areas for those people to live, he said.
“That’s driving an increasingly large share of our economy,” he said.
These workers have the option to work from anywhere and typically make more than $100,000 a year, Gavlinski said.
The alliance and SkyWerx plan to work together to apply for grants to help bring broadband to some underserved areas.
One possible source may be the Colorado High Cost Support Mechanism, a subsidy that supports telephone companies.
“We do anticipate at least applying for grant funding through that program when it becomes available,” Gavlinski said.
So far, the response to the service in Forest Lakes has been strong. In that area, the company has been posting notices on doors about the new service, he said.
“There is certainly a great need out there for better Internet,” he said.
The goal is 100 percent coverage across the county, but there will likely be some areas where homes are so far-flung it does not justify full coverage, he said.