Town considers launching new broadband service across Light & Power service area

Town Board to review business plan and vote on utility establishment March 12

The Town Board will review the details of a business plan and consider the establishment of a new broadband (high-speed internet) service during its regular meeting March 12 at 7 p.m. in the Town Board Room at Town Hall, 170 MacGregor Ave. Community members and other stakeholders are encouraged to attend and comment. Meeting materials will be posted at www.estes.org/boardsandmeetings by Friday, March 8 at 5 p.m. The business plan is available at www.estes.org/broadband. Written comments may be provided in advance to the Town Clerk’s office, Room 130 of Town Hall, or emailed to [email protected]. The meeting will be streamed live and recorded for viewing later via www.estes.org/videos.

The broadband business plan presentation will include a historical recap of the Town’s research since Estes Park’s electorate voted to reclaim local authority to provide advanced telecommunications services in 2015 with a 92 percent majority. Town Administrator Frank Lancaster commented, “Staff have been diligently working to gather the information needed for the board to make a major business decision on a project that our customers have consistently identified as a high priority.”

Private companies are unlikely to build a modern fiber to the premise system in Estes Park and the surrounding area due to a low return on a large investment to build in a rural area with extreme terrain and dispersed customer base. The Town’s commissioned technical assistance reports and business proforma identified the only feasible option is for the community to invest in itself by establishing a municipally-owned service. The business plan proposes adding broadband as a service within the Light & Power Division, offering 1-Gigabit service (1000 megabits), which is significantly faster than most residents and businesses have across the nation. In the Estes Valley, many residents currently receive 2- to 60-megabit service, with a few paying for 100-megabit service or greater. The infrastructure would also provide redundancy for emergency communications in the Estes Valley.

At the March 12 meeting, staff will seek guidance from the Town Board on the next step — whether to amend the municipal code to add broadband as a service of the Town’s Utilities Department. If the board votes to proceed, it will next consider a funding proposal for the startup phase of the service, borrowing from the fund balance of the Light & Power utility, at its March 26 meeting. The initial startup phase will take advantage of Light and Power’s smart grid fiber optics, which already exists in specific neighborhoods and is currently under construction in others (Raven Circle and Carriage Hills).

In the fall, the board would vote to issue up to $37 million in bonds to fund the four-year buildout of the utility and associated operations — across the entire Light & Power service area in Estes Park, Glen Haven, Allenspark and portions of the U.S. 34 and U.S. 36 corridors to the east. To ensure the business is funding itself, the order of service additions will be based on the construction cost and revenue potential. If the board votes to proceed, a complete construction and rollout schedule would be developed during the startup phase.

Lancaster summarized, “If the Town Board votes to establish this service, staff will quickly begin communicating to our customer base so they know what to expect, and when.”

For additional information, please call 970-577-3588 or visit the project website at www.estes.org/broadband.

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