WESTERN SLOPE EAGLE-Net looks for funding to complete project next year
Written by Administrator
Friday, 18 October 2013 20:12
By Sheridan Block
The controversial EAGLE-Net Alliance broadband project will need more money before it is completed by the end of 2014.
During a special hearing with the Colorado Legislative Audit Committee last month, EAGLE-Net president Mike Ryan explained that the project, awarded a $100.6 million federal stimulus grant in 2010, will need another $17 million to $25 million.
Following an inspection in late April, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which presides over the broadband initiative, found that EAGLE-Net will need at least an additional $15 million in private funding to continue through next year.
Ryan also reported that the intergovernmental organization has $8.4 million remaining from the grant; however, in May he reported that the group had $7.8 million left over. After the hearing, he explained that "financial engineering" allowed EAGLE-Net to make up the difference.
"We've got a lot of work to do. It's a tremendous undertaking," said EAGLE-Net's Southwest Regional Representative Pat Swonger. "A lot of people don't connect how difficult it is to do something like this...to span some of these distances here in rural Colorado."
Swonger mentioned that the link in Ouray was a major accomplishment for the project.
In August, Ouray School students kicked off the new school year with high-speeds on the EAGLE-Net network. While the project began as an effort to connect schools and government facilities to a high-speed Internet network, local businesses are able to use fiber optic lines in the area to reach higher speeds with other Internet service providers.
"Over the next few months you're going to see more of the economic impact in Ouray…it's going to be so significant in bringing business to small communities," said Swonger.
City facilities including Town Hall and the Courthouse are still shopping for ISP's. City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli said that EAGLE-Net is not the cheapest option available.
While Ridgway Schools have access to fiber optic lines, they are not yet hooked up to the statewide broadband network due to their current contract with CenturyLink.
Meanwhile, the $3.4 million project to construct a fiber-optic connection between Silverton and Durango is expected to begin next year. Ryan told the audit committee that he expects engineering on the Durango-Silverton link to be completed by the end of this year. However, with funds running low, EAGLE-Net will not be able to reach areas such as Creede, Lake City, Naturita and Nucla.
"We're still committed to finishing the network," said Swonger.