Soon, Grand County's schools and governments will have access to broadband capacity not yet available here.
Called EagleNet, a network with the goal of connecting each school district in the state, is slated to be completed by Aug. 31, and East and West Grand school districts are on the list to benefit.
Benefits will be "a very high capacity" broadband available at a reasonable price, according to Grand County Information Systems Director Martin Woros, plus enhanced access to advanced research, education and peer networks.
Purchasing bandwidth, according to Dave Kavanagh of Eagle-Net, will also create redundancies, or back-up service, for users who continue with other Internet service providers.
The network combines the use of existing infrastructure, new fiber optic cable and wireless technology to connect schools, libraries, governments and health care operations within the state to a new statewide network that has access to advanced research and education services such as Internet2.
A microwave radio signal will bring the broadband to Grand County, Kavanagh said, but an upgrade is planned for an Adams Tunnel fiber optic network sometime in 2014.
Eagle-Net started from the Centennial Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES, in 2008, and has since aimed to create a broadband network to 178 school districts in the state, 26 libraries, 15 community colleges, 12 BOCES, and three higher education institutions. The project does not service residents and businesses.
For broadband access among schools, Colorado ranks 42nd out of 50 states, Kavanagh said. Eagle-Net received more than $30 million in matching funds and services from throughout Colorado to leverage a $100.6 million infrastructure grant in 2010 from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Eagle-Net is "filling a need that has existed for years, one that other communication providers have been unwilling or unable to address within the means of their financial resources," according to Eagle-Net.
The project, which functions as a cost-sharing cooperative, intends to sustain itself by generating revenue through services provided to its members and by offering "excess capacity to other carriers, private sector providers and Internet service providers."
Because the project was funded with federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it has been controversial, with smaller providers concerned Eagle-Net could "come in and displace them," according to Woros.
The service will be much cheaper and at capacities that presently do not exist in Grand County. For the current price of 1.5 megabits, Eagle-Net will provide 300 megabits, Woros said, and that's a benefit to taxpayers.
"These things are coming in layers," he said. "Each one of these projects coming in is not going to solve the problem completely, but each one adds another layer of benefit to bring communication systems to Grand County."