Broadband forum held at Lamar Community College
Liza Quinn with Tilson shows a piece of a fiber optic wire. (Mike Bowen)
Liza Quinn with Tilson met with community members and local service providers at the broadband forum held Wednesday, May 24 at the Lamar Community College small lecture hall.
The forum was held to educate and engage in the area of broadband. Quinn said the solution to extend the broadband coverage area would be to solicit community engagement and advocacy. She said they also wanted to solicit information to see how accurate their coverage maps were for the Lamar and surrounding county area, covering six counties; Prowers, Kiowa, Bent, Baca, Otero and Crowley.
According to Quinn, broadband is a speed threshold, any data transfer. She further noted it is usually internet access and that broadband is 25 megabits per second down and three megabits per second up, for download and upload. Two service providers in attendance noted they offer five megabits down, five megabits up and also 10 megabits down and 10 megabits up and are working on improving that service.
It was discussed during the meeting the ever growing “need for speed” with internet among users. Over the past several years, streaming video has become a desire for internet users, along with video gaming online, which requires high speed internet. Lamar Community College President, Dr.
Linda Lujan, was in attendance and mentioned students in the dorm and also students in the home have had issues accessing fast enough internet speed. Dr. Lujan noted that internet usage in the dorm can slow down on wireless.
It was further discussed that many devices are connected to the internet in the dorm rooms, which not only include computers and cell phones but smart TVs and gaming devices. Dr. Lujan noted the students at home have had issues utilizing programs for online classes due to not having access to fast enough internet needed for the programs.
She further noted some of those students have backed away from online classes, altogether. “Colorado has a goal by 2018 to have 80 percent of the households to have access (to broadband) and by 2020 to have 100 percent” to have broadband access,” said Quinn. The Tilson representative said the economics of broadband are driven by density. She said wire lines come with a very high cost, though, providing broadband coverage across this area could be done wirelessly.
Quinn noted that public subsidies for service providers can be obtained, and she said that today, that’s done federally by the FCC and the USDA and done in state with the Colorado Broadband Fund. She said the broadband fund is a newly formed fund. She further commented there are public subsidies for specific use, such as for schools or telehealth for hospitals.
Quinn also noted some communities develop or use existing coops that provide internet access, such as SECOM. Two maps were shown during the presentation of Lamar and Prowers County, showing what part is served and what is underserved, as far as what part of the county is connected to internet at 25 down and three up. The portion of the map in green showed what was served with the current broadband specification which showed mostly Lamar having the necessary coverage.
Other portions of the county were considered underserved, meaning they aren’t receiving the current broadband speed. Some of the issues the local service providers run into include the local terrain. One service provider mentioned reaching over ridges to provide proper service was a problem.
It was mentioned that towers couldn’t necessarily reach the underserved areas. It was also noted that the map showing served and underserved broadband was similar to that of cell phone coverage, as there are many no coverage areas in this part of the state. One service provider mentioned limitations (for offering broadband) being equipment and the ability to deliver 25 megabits and do so reliably.
It was also mentioned there is one midline provider and also is a direct competitor, which makes it difficult to provide proper service. Quinn also discussed how to do a speed test to see what the direct speed is from the modem and not done wirelessly. She said if possible, to hard wire a computer directly into the modem and then run the speed test.
Quinn discussed in the meeting that Tilson is using this information to see what can be done to improve broadband in the area and they would be running wireless tests as well.