Internet, cell service could be coming to Castle Creek Valley
July 27, 2017
The owner of a home located several miles up the Castle Creek Valley wants to form a utility and install a fiber optic cable line to bring high-speed internet and cellphone service to the area, a county official said earlier this week.
"What they're talking about is a very significant project," G.R. Fielding, Pitkin County engineer, told county commissioners Tuesday.
The homeowner, who was not identified, wants to run the cable about 8½ miles up the Castle Creek Valley to the house, which is "basically where (former tennis star) Martina Navratilova's old place" is located, Fielding said.
The 288-strand fiber cable the budding utility wants to install is "substantial" and would provide a significant amount of capacity and bandwidth to valley residents, he said.
Residents along Castle Creek Road, as well as those who live on Midnight Mine Road, Little Annie's Road and others, would have the opportunity to tap into the line and receive much improved internet and cell service, Fielding said.
Farr Shepherd, president of Decypher Technologies in Aspen, said Wednesday that his company was approached to do the feasibility study for the fiber optic line. The utility, which will be called Castle Creek Broadband, will be set up as a nonprofit and will charge competitive market rates once it is up and running, he said. Residents will have to pay to hook up their fiber cable to the trunk line, he said.
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Shepherd, who also declined to name the homeowner behind the project, said it will cost about $1.5 million to install the fiber optic line. The homeowner will not foot that entire bill, but will kick in startup money to get the project going with the rest of the cost defrayed to subscribers, he said.
Cellphone service in subscribers' homes would improve through the use of technology developed by Decypher that allows cellphones to use the fiber optic cable, he said.
In addition, the fiber optic cable could eventually be extended all the way up the valley to, for example, the Pine Creek Cookhouse, Shepherd said.
Fielding told commissioners the line would follow the Castle Creek Road right-of-way and would likely be buried for much of the route, though it might utilize above-ground Holy Cross Energy electrical poles.
Details about the utility's business plan, how the fiber optic cable would be installed and questions surrounding whether and how county commissioners could regulate the project have yet to be answered, Fielding said. Once those details are worked out, those behind the project want to get going, perhaps as soon as this fall, he said.
"They want to get started as soon as possible," Fielding said.
Commissioners said Tuesday they want to be updated about the project, partially so they can remain informed about how it will affect and possibly improve current county efforts to provide fixed wireless broadband to rural areas of Pitkin County.
Fielding also said members of the Castle Creek Caucus have been informed of the project.
Navratilova's home was located on a lot that was later split and is now owned by Double R Creek Ltd., a company controlled by a prominent Hong Kong family, and ASP Properties, a California limited liability company owned by the CEO of a management services company, according to Pitkin County property records, California online records and an Aspen Times story from December about a possible dam on Castle Creek.
Questions about the project can be directed to Shepherd at farr.shepherd @decyphertech.com.