1/31/17

ZIRKEL Wireless – Open letter to:

Governor Hickenlooper, Representative Diane Mitsch Bush, Senator Michael Bennet, Senator Cory Gardner, Senator Randy Baumgardner, Congressman Scott Tipton, and the decision makers for Routt and Moffat Counties.

Dear Elected Officials,

As you know, on Thursday, January 12, 2017, Governor Hickenlooper delivered his annual State of the State address. During the speech, he said, “We need a comprehensive focus on infrastructure that supports not just transportation, but also broadband, education, healthcare, and our environment.”

Hickenlooper spent a few minutes discussing broadband in rural Colorado, ultimately announcing the “creation of a broadband office to help us get from 70% to 85% coverage by the time we leave office and 100% by 2020.”

ZIRKEL Wireless

ZIRKEL is a Wireless Internet Service Provider in Steamboat Springs. We have been serving Northwest Colorado with Internet service since 2001. We offer Internet speeds up to 30Mbps download, and 10Mbps upload with our standard plans, exceeding the current FCC definition of broadband.

Our competition primarily includes multinational companies like AT&T, Time Warner (Charter), Comcast, and Centurylink; a real David vs. Goliath type of story. And the real joy is that we have not only survived, but thrived. If anything we have proven that you can successfully deliver high-quality broadband cost effectively.

Routt County, Moffat County, and many other Colorado Counties have hired Diane Kruse with Neo Connect (previously Neo Fiber) to provide Broadband Planning services. For Routt County, Neo Fiber estimated the cost to connect every home and business at approximately $90 million.

Hickenlooper’s 2020 Vision

ZIRKEL Wireless would like to take a stand and say that Governor Hickenlooper’s vision of 100% coverage by 2020 is feasible. And it can be done for much less than most of our decision makers think.

The Future of Broadband

Most of the people I ask about broadband do not know the difference between a wireless connection and a wired connection. If you ask most Internet consumers what the difference is, the conversation quickly goes to WiFi. The reality is that most of us do not care how or what delivers the Internet connection to our home, all we care about is that it works when we want it to and that it is fast enough to provide a quality Internet experience.

Fiber is often touted as the end-all, be-all solution that you cannot beat. I am sure that you have heard of Google Fiber? But did you know that in October 2016 Google Fiber halted its rollout in 10 cities and laid off a large number of staff?

With our mountainous terrain, running fiber to every nook and cranny of Colorado will require a tremendous amount of resources – remember the $90 million cost just for Routt County? Fiber and Wireless technologies can be combined into a hybrid solution. If deployed in this hybrid fashion, we at ZIRKEL are confident that Hickenlooper’s 2020 broadband vision will be realized, while saving Colorado taxpayers millions of dollars in the long run.

Possible Solutions

One solution is for local electric provers (in our area, this is Yampa Valley Electric) to work with existing Wireless providers and Middle-Mile carriers (Mammoth and Tri-State G&T) to deliver multi-hundred megabit speeds to every home and business within their coverage areas. Oftentimes, electric providers and wireless ISP’s have similar footprints and resource requirements. Furthermore, electrical grids and communication networks are becoming more and more reliant on one another, with electric operations relying on two-way communication to manage the electric grid.

Other solutions include ZIRKEL Wireless working with anchor institutions and government entities to connect their buildings together, to offer public WiFi to parks and downtown areas, to install or upgrade wireless security or camera systems, and more. Our team can also provide redundant layer 2 transport services between office locations, reducing the need for VPN connectivity.\

And yet another solution would be to appoint Broadband coordinators for each region within the State, all of whom report back to the Governor’s Broadband Committee. Our team has identified a large list of possible tower sites that would expand coverage, but obtaining access has been difficult.

Closing Comments

ZIRKEL Wireless and Yampa Valley Electric have begun discussing opportunities to expand broadband in the area. One area of concern for both ZIRKEL Wireless and Yampa Valley Electric is obtaining access to Farwell Mountain in Clark, Colorado. The site is located on Forest Service land, and our local Forest Service office is telling us that it will take three years to reclassify the tower to allow for commercial use.

North Routt severely lacks broadband services. The North Routt Community Charter School’s President Brandon LaChance put it best. He tried to launch a new educational program to allow his students to complete their homework from outside of school. The initiative failed because more than 50% of his students lacked adequate broadband capacity to make the program a success.

Other areas within Routt and Moffat Counties that are lacking broadband connectivity are Toponas, County Road 16 in Stagecoach, Mt. Harris Canyon in Routt County, and Hamilton, Lay, and Maybell in Moffat County.

We would like to invite our elected community and local decision-makers to the table for an open conversation about the opportunities present within a hybrid model and discuss efforts to get every resident within Routt and Moffat Counties connected with fast and reliable broadband. We also desire to learn from existing private-public partnerships throughout the State and welcome any invitations to do so. With nearly 16 years experience in Northwest Colorado, we are hopeful that our community leaders will view us as a resource in the Broadband community.

Joshua Nowak

Operations Manager

ZIRKEL Wireless