Construction set to start on Red Cliff Internet tower this summer
RED CLIFF — An 80-foot tower that would provide Internet to the town of Red Cliff is ready to be built when the snow melts, but waiting for U.S. Forest Service approval could delay a broadband signal coming to the tower.
The idea is to have fast-speed Internet go from Leadville to Ski Cooper to Red Cliff’s new tower with High Country Internet providing the signal, said Scott Burgess, mayor of Red Cliff.
“The tower’s got to be there one way or the other. I’m confident that we’ll get the signal eventually,” Burgess said. “But it’s all up to the Forest Service and if they can streamline their processes. We put an application in to the Forest Service in 2014.”
Burgess said the process has been “frustrating” because larger communications companies aren’t willing, or able, to work in Red Cliff, and Ski Cooper sits on Forest Service land, so it’s up to them to approve the project for the Internet.
The town has had two applications sent back by the Forest Service to be reworked. Town officials must be able to prove that all other options have been exhausted through communications companies such as Comcast and CenturyLink.
Burgess said there are no other options, and the problem begins in Congress, not with the Forest Service. Sen. Michael Bennet has also gotten involved.
“We’re being kind of the guinea pig to help figure out if we can streamline some of these bureaucratic processes so communities like us can get better communications,” Burgess said.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, about 17 percent of Americans don’t have access to broadband service.
BENEFITS TO TOWN
Once the tower is built in the town of Red Cliff and wireless Internet is flowing, then roaming cellular company ComNet is interested in adding cell phone coverage, Burgess said, for any service provider.
Reliable Internet improves public safety, is an economic driver and improves quality of life, Burgess said. He said he is “naively optimistic” the signal will be there when the tower is constructed this summer.