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Region 10 broadband build starting in Montrose

A sweeping fiber build-out project now has a contractor for the construction work necessary in Montrose.

Deeply Digital, a local company, was selected to build the infrastructure for the Montrose leg of Region 10 Economic League’s fiber project.

Region 10 serves Montrose, Delta, Ouray, San Miguel, Hinsdale and Gunnison counties. The two-phase broadband project aims to expand “middle-mile” fiber into under-served communities and to create backup options within existing regional networks.

“We are carrying to locations in communities that are totally open access,” said Chris Kennedy, regional broadband director for Region 10. “We are building to government institutions and anchor institutions that fit the definition of what we can do under (legislation).”

The project entails building the middle-mile of fiber out to carrier-neutral locations, where Internet service providers can connect to bring fiber into homes (last-mile service).

These carriers’ ability to use middle-mile fiber would be more cost-effective as a result, and the hope is that will bring down the costs of providing 1-gig service.

Region 10 sees in the project the ability to give other ISPs the chance to provide broadband access in a way that will create competition and lower the cost of such access, Kennedy said.

“We are proud to have been chosen as the contractor for Montrose,” said Doug Seacat, Deeply Digital’s president, in a news release. “We have a long history here and are excited to be working with Region 10 and the City of Montrose to improve regional broadband.”

Deeply Digital will work with Actavo Engineering Services and the consulting firm NEO Connect. Deeply Digital was the low bidder (price not disclosed) and as an added bonus, is local, noted Virgil Turner with the City of Montrose.

“We’re especially happy that they’re a local company, providing jobs to people here in our community,” said Turner, the city’s director of innovation and citizen engagement.

Delta-Montrose Electric Association also is a supporter.

Although it is building its own fiber-to-premises network through its subsidiary company, Elevate Fiber, the cooperative also provided in-kind support to Region 10, under a negotiated right of use that gives the economic league six non-transferrable fibers.

Region 10 has partnered with the cooperative because both organizations have an interest in perfecting easements for commercial use, Kennedy said.

“Region 10 is not a last-mile provider. Having DMEA be able to do that through their Elevate enterprise is both a good solution for Delta and those we will be serving in Montrose, as well,” he said.

The city council also approved by resolution up to a $750,000 cash match for the Region 10 grant application that is helping to fund the overall project. The city’s cash match is primarily intended to complete the build-out of the community anchor institution network in Montrose.

“The city is still committed to that and has budgeted funding for that. We’re providing partial funding to this project for Region 10,” Turner said.

“This is going to be an asset. The fiber network that’s going to be installed in Montrose, the carrier-neutral location at city hall, acts as the hub. From there, we’re building out, with this network, to 24 or 25 locations in the community, all within the city limits.” Those locations will be a part of the community anchor-institution network.

Region 10 will operate the network and the city receives capacity on the network. “We will be leasing back to them our right of us,” Turner said. “We’re paying a share of costs to build this. We will own it (the city portion of the network). Region 10 will have the authority to operate on the network to connect to the community network institutions. It’s very exciting.

We’re actually building.”

Region 10 was able obtain from Deeply Digital the rights to use about half of the fiber it needs to install the network, as part of an earlier process, Turner said. Ownership of those rights transfer to city upon completion of network. The city will enter into agreement with Region 10 to provide the entity with necessary infrastructure to operate the open access network.

Deeply Digital had responded to a solicitation for information from entities that might already own a fiber conduit.

Some of the fiber for the new project is to be co-located with Deeply Digital’s, per agreement, at a much lower cost than constructing the infrastructure would take.

Using infrastructure already in place also cuts back on construction impacts.

“We know construction is a big issue for our community. One of the thing we were very fortunate to be successful on was much of the construction will involve conduit already in place,” Turner said. “It’s still a lot, but it’s going to be substantially less than anticipated.”

The Region 10 project is occurring in two phases: The current phase includes network construction in the cities of Delta and Montrose. Construction in Montrose is expected to start early next week.

Region 10 hopes to be able to complete the engineering for the second phase by early next year, and to build out to the remaining communities by the end of 2017.

The project overall is estimated to cost between $14 million and $15 million, with funding coming from foundation grants, matching funds from regional communities, and from state and federal money.

The Department of Local Affairs provided a significant chunk of the funding in the form of a $5.2 million grant that was awarded last year.

Region 10 is additionally working with power companies in the region.

“There was a lot of community support and certainly, there’s a lot of interest in the project,” Kennedy said. “We’re doing a pretty good job of leveraging those assets.”

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