Internet service in western Colorado was so terrible that towns and counties built their own telecom |

Internet service in western Colorado was so terrible that towns and counties built their own telecom

Tamara Chuang, Colorado Sun
Map of where Project Thor has been installed. The new 481-mile internet backbone, which was completed in April 2020, was built to provide a redundant internet network in Western Colorado. The lines run through 14 communities. But there’s room for expansion as new internet service providers, such as Allo Communications, are now attracted to the rural region with a “middle mile” system that won’t cause an outage if a fiber line gets cut along the route. (Provided by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments)

Internet outages became a distant memory this month as a good chunk of western Colorado turned on a new broadband system. But this wasn’t built by a typical telecom. It took a band of local governments and partners from 14 rural communities to stitch together the 481-mile network, dubbed “Project Thor.” 

Communities from Aspen to Meeker craved better access and affordability but also demanded reliability. Over the years, multiple outages caused by accidental cuts in the internet line would shut them off from the rest of the world. At a Granby clinic, for example, medical staff couldn’t quickly send images of stroke patients’ brain scans down to radiologists in Denver for review during an outage, putting “the patient at significant risk of long-term damage,” said Dr. Thomas Coburn, a family and emergency medicine physician and CEO of Middle Park Health.

So the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, referred to as Northwest COG, coordinated the two-year effort of public and private organizations that couldn’t wait any longer for existing broadband providers to fix their problem.

“A service outage is extremely taxing on our hospital operations and frustrations do run very high during a down time. No internet means no email, no access to the outside world, and limited access to even our own networks,” said Rob C. Wissenbach, director of information technology services for Middle Park Health clinics, which partnered with Project Thor in Kremmling and Granby. “So far, the partnership with Thor has proven to be successful.”

Project Thor is that “middle mile” of physical lines sitting between the greater internet and an internet service provider that serves consumers. 

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

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