Broadband is coming to Gilpin County…someday

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Participate in the high-speed internet survey coming soon

By Randy Beaudette

Broadband is coming! Broadband is coming! That’s right folks someday Gilpin County will have a high-speed internet just like the rest of the country, but not anytime real soon.

An informational meeting was held on Thursday evening, December 1, at the Community Center hosted by Gilpin County Commissioners Linda Isenhart, Gail Watson, and Buddy Schmatz. Also in attendance was Steve Burkholder and Teresa Jennings from NEO Connect, and John Bottomley, the Information Technology Director for Clear Creek County. The group provided about thirty residents with the latest updates on the Broadband internet situation.

Commissioner Isenhart kicked off the meeting at 6:30 p.m. starting to talk about the NEO Connect broadband study that will be conducted soon between Gilpin and Clear Creek Counties. A DOLA grant of $93,500 comprised of 75% DOLA funds, and 25% ($23,375) shared by Gilpin and Clear Creek Counties will fund the study.

According to Burkholder, Gilpin and Clear Creek residents voted a couple of years ago to opt out of an 11 year old State legislation (SB 152) that restricted governments from providing or partnering with private companies to provide broadband services, and Black Hawk citizens voted to opt out in the most recent election. The results of this opt out vote allows local governments to assist residents and businesses to obtain high-speed internet. Advantages include enhancement of emergency services, increased internet availability to homes, increased internet availability to businesses both office and home based. It will also allow some residents to conduct work from home, and will increase services in Black Hawk and Central City. The process in the next four to six months will be that NEO Connect will provide planning and financial modeling options to the County. The final deliverable will be broadband services throughout the two counties.

A residential survey will kick-off the broadband study. Service availability, internet speed, down time, and quality of service are a sample of questions that will be asked on the survey. Residents will be able to participate in the survey several ways; online will be easiest and most effective method, but with those folks that don’t have internet, several suggestions were kicked around. Kiosks at public buildings and/or a mail-in survey may be available.

Tensions ramped up almost immediately during the question and answer portion of the meeting as residents expressed their dissatisfaction with the current available service options, slow internet speeds, and the fact that Gilpin has waited long enough for high-speed internet. Patience is wearing thin and it was evident in the tone shift of the meeting.

Resident Andy Smith pointed out that there was a Clear Creek/ Gilpin County study conducted in 2014 that contained much of the information that will be covered on the proposed study. “What has changed in two years that requires a new study?” Commissioner Watson replied, “When that (2014) study was conducted, Gilpin County was listed on the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) map as “served.” We had to officially protest that and get that (status) changed. Infrastructure, usage, types of service, carriers, and technology has all changed since that study was released.” Director Bottomley agreed that a new study needs to be conducted to get a good idea of the current internet environment in the area.

The meeting wound down at 8 p.m. with some questions answered and some not. The conclusion that everyone came to is that high-speed/ broadband internet will not be available in Clear Creek and Gilpin County anytime soon unless folks take the initiative and sign up for a satellite internet service or exercise other options. Watch for and participate in the residential/ business survey coming soon.

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