With the talk about rural broadband during this year’s legislative session, it made us realize how easy it is to take broadband for granted, living along the Front Range.
So Next headed up to Clear Creek County and we met Rachel Betz, who owns Blackstone Rivers Ranch, an outdoor venue for weddings and gatherings. When Betz and her husband first moved to the property, 3 miles north of I-70 near Idaho Springs, there was little to no internet or cell service.
“It was intermittent, constantly down. We had a lot of challenges getting through a single work day,” she said.
Betz used to have to send her employees home. She’d go downtown to a coffee shop to work. Five years later, the venue now has improved internet, but still not high speed.
Many people in Clear Creek County spend time in downtown Idaho Springs and downtown Georgetown to access high speed internet that can’t be accessed from their homes.
“Our schools have reasonable Wi-Fi, but kids have to come down and sit outside the library or go into the library or hang out outside the school or someplace with good Wi-Fi to be able to do their homework,” said Randy Wheelock, a Clear Creek County Commissioner.
The Colorado state legislature passed a bill that would provide more funding for rural broadband, about $9.5 million. In November, Clear Creek County voters opted out of a state law preventing municipalities from building their own high speed internet infrastructure.
Wheelock says high speed internet - defined as 25 magabits per second download, three megabits per second upload - is coming to the county. It’s just a matter of who steps up first: the private companies or the county.