VAIL — About 300 economic development experts, communications specialists and government officials gathered at the Vail Cascade from June 8-10 to discuss broadband infrastructure in the state.
The town of Vail’s newest broadband project — one that when completed this fall will increase user capacity and add 29 “nodes,” or cell towers, within the town — was one of the hot topics of the conference.
Vail IT director Ron Braden was one of the keynote speaker, talking to the crowd about how the new system will vastly improve the area’s often inadequate coverage in time for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships and improve town WiFi and phone service for all the carriers.
This distributed antennae system is the first of its kind in the country and works especially well for “geographically challenged” areas — such as the mountains, said Braden.
The project was of particular interest because it is being funded through a private-public partnership, a model that many other communities hope to replicate.
Overall, the conference addressed the broader issue of broadband connectivity — a term referring to any means used to connect to the internet.
“This infrastructure has been called the fourth utility because it’s essential for working, recreation and education. It’s important for us to raise the standard of these services wherever you are,” said conference organizer Audrey Danner, who represented Craig and Moffat County economic development.
Finding Unique Solutions
Different Colorado communities face difference challenges when it comes to connectivity, said conference organizer Jeff Gavlin.
For some, it might be geographical, like Vail’s mountains. Other communities may lack the resources and infrastructure to even provide the highest levels of service to its residents. Organizers said their goal is to start the conversation between businesses, officials, and tech experts to find out what solutions different communities need.
“There’s not just one solution, and it may be different for every community,” said Gavlin. “Technology that works here to deliver broadband might not be cost-effective in some of these communities. Of course money is always an issue, and we have to ask if solutions are sustainable in the long-term.”