A 400-mile fiber network built to provide broadband internet access to 14 mountain communities across northwest Colorado officially went online Tuesday.
The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments has spearheaded the work, dubbed Project Thor. The loop starts in Denver and runs west, using Colorado Department of Transportation fiber along Interstate 70 and a combination of fiber services going north through Meeker, Craig, Steamboat Springs and Grand County.
The network is designed to provide redundancy for communities that experience regular outages, the council said in a statement. It also fills a need for high-quality, affordable broadband lacking in many rural areas, government officials said.
Project Thor, named after the hammer-wielding Norse god, received a $1 million grant from the state Department of Local Affairs for infrastructure and a $270,000 grant to lease the cable from CDOT for the first three years. Local governments provided matching funds. Work started on the project in 2014.
The network is designed with a capability of up to 400 gigabytes, with additional capacity possible. It is a backbone that will allow the partners to provide service to underserved areas directly or through private internet service providers, government officials said.
The coronavirus pandemic underscores the importance of broadband for hospitals, health care providers, schools, local governments, public safety agencies and businesses, officials said.
“By leveraging the fantastic technical and engineering support, we can offer carrier-grade services, have a real-time view into our network as well as the ability to reroute traffic in the event of an outage,” said Nate Walowitz, the regional broadband director for the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.
The network is owned by the council and operated by Wyoming-based Mammoth Networks. The project’s partners include three counties, four towns, the Yampa Valley Electric Association, Northwest Colorado Broadband, a nonprofit in Steamboat Springs, and Middle Park Health in Kremmling and Granby.
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