Special to the Plaindealer
Government officials and community and school leaders across the Western Slope are praising the release to the public last week of a state-wide EAGLE-Net system map. New fiber optic infrastructure from Durango to Silverton and another short fiber optic span connecting Ouray to Ridgway was especially welcomed.
“Thanks to EAGLE-Net, we now only need 21 miles of fiber optic line from Ouray to Silverton to complete a 'Billion Dollar Information Superhighway' for improved telecom services for the entire Western Slope,” said Greg Swanson of Operation Linkup, a regional telecom advocacy organization. When completed, the fiber optic line is expected to have more than a billion dollar impact on future regional economic development, according to Swanson.
The EAGLE-Net Alliance is the result of a $100 million NTIA (National Telecom Information Administration) grant to create a Colorado cost-sharing cooperative broadband network to more than 230 community anchor institutions. The EAGLE-Net map, published on the organization’s website at www.co-eaglenet.net, reveals specifics of new microwave and fiber optic infrastructure planned for the state. Much needed “middle-mile” fiber optic infrastructure in the Southwest region along the US 550 corridor received enthusiastic support of community leaders and telecom activists.
“The Southwest needs this critical fiber optic infrastructure,” explained Ed Morlan, Director of Region 9 Economic Development in Durango. “EAGLE-Net is closing two of the three missing gaps of fiber optic lines along the US 550 corridor between Durango and Montrose.”
“This is a significant development for all Western Slope communities,” added Lynn Padgett, County Commissioner for Ouray County. “Closing gaps of missing fiber optic infrastructure adds path redundancy, bandwidth and reliability of service for the entire region. The EAGLE-Net plan, along with closing the 21-mile gap between Silverton and Ouray, will allow us to diversify our economies by having the infrastructure that is essential to attract innovative entrepreneurs, retain and expand existing businesses and increase educational opportunities.“
Pete McKay, a San Juan County Commissioner, was equally optimistic on the project. “This is critical fiber optic infrastructure that enhances regional economic development. It’s a major step in attracting individuals and location-neutral businesses drawn to the beauty of rural Colorado.”
“Community leaders on the Western Slope have worked on acquiring fiber optic infrastructure for more than a decade,” added Kim White, Superintendent of the Silverton School District. “EAGLE-Net will reach nearly every school district in Colorado through microwave and fiber optic technology. This project is of special significance to rural school districts and isolated communities in Southwest Colorado.”
Operation Linkup, a regional coalition of government, educational, non-profit and business entities announced their reaction to the release of the EAGLE-Net build maps last week. Operation Linkup is holding a regional telecom planning conference in Ridgway at the 4H Event Center on Thursday, Mar. 22 to review the EAGLE-Net plan and update goals for telecom development on the Western Slope. Interested parties are invited to attend the free planning conference. Information is available online at www. operation-linkup.org.