Pitkin County shuns rural residents wanting broadband | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County shuns rural residents wanting broadband

I just read (on my spotty internet service) an “unidentified homeowner” is paying to install a high-speed broadband network in Castle Creek. Castle Creek now joins North Star, the Aspen Institute and Aspen Skiing Co. in having become so frustrated after years of trying to get Pitkin County to bring broadband to them, they have done it themselves.

At a county retreat eight years ago, the county commissioners prioritized “delivering high-speed broadband to the rural areas of Roaring Fork Valley” as one of their top three goals. As a taxpayer, I was heartened by the notion that some of the county’s attention and budget would be focused on achieving a “key deliverable.”

Silly me. As it turned out, the county’s strategy for achieving broadband was going to be an ironic twist on a local property management company’s mantra (“We do it, so you don’t have to”). It is brilliant in its simplicity: “We don’t do it, so you have to.”

The premise is that bereft citizens, after years of appearing before the county begging for help with delivering broadband, will come to the slow, unmistakable realization that if they want broadband, they are going to have to create it — and pay for it — themselves. Which is not to say that under this strategy the county has done nothing.

We have been treated to a healthy amount of arm-waving, talking and even a $150,000 snail-mail survey that discovered 97 percent of us want broadband, and the other 3 percent are dead or have moved out of the state. So lots of GrassRoots TV — everything except actually making broadband happen.

The fun part is reading about county officials explaining how “there are simply too many obstacles to getting broadband in our mountainous rural area” while you are riding on a RFTA bus — which has Wi-Fi broadband.

In Old Snowmass, we spent many months trying to get high-speed fiber to the home into our valley; we negotiated a deal for the fiber backbone with Comcast, we worked out easements and deployment with Holy Cross and were ready to pull the trigger. But the $2 million state grant that our caucus sought didn’t materialize, which left the county.

We had a few fruitless discussions, but it soon became clear that the last thing on Earth the county wanted to do was help us (or anyone) get broadband.

In time, without the state grant, or an “an unidentified homeowner,” we had to shelve our plans in frustration.

So this is a plea to “an unidentified homeowner” in Old Snowmass. You want gigabit Google fiber to your home? We can make that happen. We’ll even name the network after you/your kid/your alma mater. (Can you tell we’re desperate?)

Just don’t bother asking the county; they have a top-secret strategy to thwart your dreams, which has thus far proven ruthlessly effective.

You might ask, “Well, if it so effective, why doesn’t that property management team change their slogan to ‘We don’t do it, so you have to’?”

Oh, that’s right, because we would fire them.

Kevin P. Ward

Old Snowmass