Eagle soft launches broadband project, looks forward to next phases
During her tenure in Eagle, former Town Manager Brandy Reitter proposed an ambitious goal for Eagle’s internet accessibility. Current Eagle Town Manager Larry Pardee said the vision involved providing outstanding internet access for the entire town at a highly competitive rate.
“I think it was a little higher risk, a little more than we could handle at the time,” Pardee said. “But that vision is still there.”
Pardee said Eagle aims to provide outstanding service to areas within the mountain community that might otherwise be overlooked. Town leaders agreed that the goal of increasing equity community-wide by providing reliable internet where it otherwise isn’t available aligns with their leadership values.
“I can’t stress how important this is. We need to provide access to all,” Pardee said. “If we have members in our community that don’t have access right now in 2023, that’s disappointing. So, we’re going to do our part to provide another opportunity.”
With the project in its soft launch stages, sectors of Eagle are already slowly being lit up one by one. However, Pardee said the project’s managers are ensuring the internet connectivity can be provided responsibly and reliably before promoting its widespread usage.
Support Local Journalism
So, approaching the goal in a fiscally responsible manner is of utmost importance to the town. Thus, the broadband project is a long-term one, set to stretch multiple years.
Now, the town is working to set up an enterprise fund, so broadband money wouldn’t chip away at general town funds. Going through the state statute process for the broadband enterprise fund may be a six-to-eight-month endeavor, Pardee said. However, once it is established, legal protections will be in place to help better ensure the broadband project’s success.
“The town’s providing an opportunity to scale up over the next few years and doing it in a cost-effective, responsible way and provide choice,” Pardee said. “So, we are helping our residents have choice, opportunity, reliability and access.”
Eagle information technology manager Kevin Aoki said the broadband program was piloted because the Downtown Development Authority approached the town expressing struggles with internet connectivity, primarily on Broadway.
“Most of the credit card machines require an internet connection to process, so there were restaurants up and down Broadway that (would be) out for hours,” Aoki said.
Aoki said the town aimed to help solve the issue in any way possible.
“Whether it be help push the private industry to get in quicker or just provide our own solution,” Aoki said. “Because we had fiber into (Town Hall), we decided to broadcast wireless internet from the building.”
Antennae and broadcast units are positioned subtly along Broadway Street high points to stretch connectivity down the street.
Aoki said two gig synchronous connection is available, meaning a user can have substantial downloading and uploading capabilities. The information technology manager explained that this format is specifically beneficial to businesses.
“Most home users, they just want to stream videos or watch movies, but there’s an engineer in this Brush Creek building, for example, (and) they do backups every night — huge backups,” Aoki said. “Before we set up their connection, they’d start their backup on Friday evening and they’d cross their fingers and hope that by Monday morning, the backup is done. Sometimes it wouldn’t happen.”
Residential units under the broadband connectivity umbrella are also able to connect, however Aoki said the business rates are all that are available at the moment. People can sign up for the internet service by going into Aoki’s I.T. office in Town Hall.
Aoki said the 20 or so businesses and individuals that signed up for broadband connection have been enthusiastic about what the town has been able to provide so far.
Alongside the business internet access, Aoki has also worked to boost free public Wi-Fi availability around Eagle thus far. He said the goal is to provide internet to community spaces. Eagle Town Park is one community center with free public Wi-Fi that Aoki said was set up within two days of it being requested so that people could watch the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup during an Eagle Flight Days event.
Broadway Street also has free public Wi-Fi, which Aoki said is extremely helpful during events that take place on the street.
“A lot of van lifers have given kudos,” Aoki said. “They’ll park out overnight outside of Town Hall and they get something like 400 meg — it’s better than what I get at home.”
Looking forward, Aoki said town-provided connectivity will extend its reach even further. Broadband is set to extend to other sectors of Eagle in a similar fashion that it does on the Broadway corridor.
“Basically, we’ve got fiber points on the north side of town, we’ll have one on the west side of town, and one in the middle portion of town,” Aoki said.
Aoki said the town is looking to fire up Chambers Avenue this year. On Chambers, the Public Works building will act as a fiberoptic broadcasting point.
“We will start broadcasting from that point and working our way westward to get the entire industrial park flooded before the end of summer,” Aoki said. “By the end of quarter three, we should have business internet for all the businesses in the area.”
Another potential fiberoptic broadcasting point also on the town’s radar is the wastewater facility by the Grand Avenue and Sylvan Lake Road roundabout.
Aoki said the town is focused on providing internet to swaths of the community that private internet providers haven’t lit up yet. The southern end of town has ample Comcast fiber, so Aoki said the town isn’t focused on providing internet connectivity there.
“We don’t want to compete with private industry if they have that opportunity to provide outstanding service at a good rate, we have no reason to be in there,” Aoki said.
For future efforts, Aoki said the town is focused on providing internet to community members who are underserved in that respect.
Looking even further into the future, Aoki explained that Eagle’s connectivity strides are major in respect to the town eventually becoming a smart city. Digital signage, smart lighting and surveillance and interactive maps are just some possibilities approaching from the horizon with the installation of reliable and community-wide internet connectivity.
With internet connectivity to Eagle Town Park already, Aoki said irrigation systems are set to be handled remotely there now, and more possibilities of smart systems will keep appearing.
“Things we haven’t even thought of using yet are available to us now,” Aoki said. “I feel it’s a big step toward getting caught up with some of the higher tech communities out there.”