A project suspended by the federal government, intended to bring more than $100 million in stimulus money for high speed internet in rural Colorado, could resume its work to bring more than 170 communities access to 1 Gbps high speed internet connections. Currently, these areas are unserved or underserved by cable internet providers and phone company internet providers.
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The federal government suspended Eagle-Net’s grant in December, citing environmental issues with the project’s current routes and problems with permits and consultations with other agencies.
According to the Durango Herald, Eagle-Net officials said they expect the suspension to be lifted May 1 at the latest.
But with the project’s grant funding set to expire at the end of August, some government leaders’ frustrations with the project’s pace are rising.
Across the state, Eagle-Net has connected to about 25 percent of the 220 educational institutions slated to be wired to the network, according to a report in The Denver Post. In February, the project came under intense scrutiny from state legislators who questioned its finances and effectiveness.
The empty cable that will carry strands of fiber-optic cable to Dove Creek ends just a mile from town. The Eagle-Net project promised to connect rural Colorado communities like Dove Creek with broadband Internet, but the federal suspension of work has stalled the project.
“We’re underserved, I’ll put it that way. I’ve watched this for three years, and I’m brokenhearted about it,” said Bryce Capron, who lives in Dove Creek, more than 400 miles southwest of Denver.
The Southwest Colorado Council of Governments wrote a letter to Colorado’s congressional delegation proposing that federal legislators take Eagle-Net’s assets and the grant money associated with this region and turn them over to the council of governments. So far, they’ve heard no response.
The council proposes using Eagle-Net’s existing fiber routes hooked up by local Internet carriers and pay for it with federal funding.
This is just one of many federally-funded projects on hold across the country. It is essential to connect our rural communities to high speed internet, just as it once was to bring electricity and phone lines to these outlying areas.