Castle Creek high speed internet nearly a go |

Castle Creek high speed internet nearly a go

If all goes according to plan, residents of the Castle Creek Valley could have high-speed internet and cellphone service by the end of summer, an official said Tuesday.

Complicated plans to lay fiber optic cable up the valley have been in the works since last summer, when the owner of a home located 10 miles up the valley where former tennis star Martina Navratilova used to live asked permission to improve the area’s connectivity.

Since then, other Castle Creek residents have joined the effort and plan to contribute to the $1.6 million price tag to bring reliable internet and cellphone service to the area, said Farr Shepherd, president of Decypher Technologies in Aspen.

Shepherd declined to name the owner of the former Navratilova property who prompted the infrastructure improvements.

Originally, the entity that would govern the new fiber optic network was to be set up as a nonprofit. However as discussions about the project progressed, that changed, said Kara Silbernagel, Pitkin County management analyst.

Now, an entity to be called “Pathfinder” will be set up as a for-profit, limited liability company and will act as the service provider for Castle Creek residents who want to join, she said. Shepherd said that while exact pricing is not yet set, Pathfinder will offer competitive rates starting at $69 a month and going up from there depending on the level of service requested.

Pathfinder plans to lay 10 miles of 288-strand fiber optic cable, she said. Each household that subscribes would use about two strands, plus more for future cell service, Silbernagel said.

Twenty-four of the strands will be donated to Pitkin County, she said. In addition, Pathfinder will pay to construct a cellphone tower near one of the trailheads in the valley so that hikers can call 911 in an emergency, she said.

That alleviates one major public safety concern in the valley, Silbernagel said, adding that the county will pay for other cell towers near trailheads if needed.

The fiber optic line also helps Pitkin County’s recent efforts to provide broadband internet access to areas of the county that lack it, she said. County officials estimated that Castle Creek would need 12 broadband towers for that effort, which now won’t be necessary because of the fiber optic line, Silbernagel said.

That allows the county to focus on other areas — like the Fryingpan Valley — that need better internet service, she said.

Work on the project won’t begin, however, until the city of Aspen approves the portion of the line that will come from the city, public outreach is completed and the final plan is approved by county commissioners, said G.R. Fielding, county engineer.

If all goes according to plan, construction could begin in May, Shepherd said Tuesday. The best-case scenario is installing a mile of the fiber optic cable a week, said Ande Grillo, another Decypher Technologies employee.

That means work could be done by the end of the summer, Shepherd said. If delays occur, the work would go on until winter puts an end to it, he said.

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