Broadband Grants will Aid Chaffee and Archuleta Counties
Visionary Broadband, a provider of high-speed internet service to communities in the rural West including Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, has been tentatively awarded two grants totaling $9.1 million. The grants will allow Visionary to build out high-speed, internet service to nearly 2,400 users in Chaffee and Archuleta counties in Colorado.
“Visionary bid these projects knowing that the grant funds plus the required match would be enough to get the job done,” said Visionary Vice President for Grant Engagement Brian Shepherd. “We did not want to leave projects incomplete. We believe it’s important to fulfill our commitments to the communities we serve.”
The grant awards are from the first of two massive federal infrastructure pots earmarked for broadband funding. In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis created the Advance Colorado Broadband initiative. Grant awards will flow out from Colorado’s Advance Broadband Initiative via the Colorado Projects Fund Grant project.
Finally — Funding to Connect Rural Areas in the Central Colorado Mountains
Visionary has pinpointed 2,344 users in and around Buena Vista and Pagosa Springs that suffer from slow or no internet service at all, referred to as underserved and unserved.
In Chaffee County, 1,310 homes and businesses in Buena Vista and Nathrop were identified as underserved and unserved. In Archuleta County, 1,034 users in Pagosa Springs were identified. The Colorado Projects Fund grant will give those users access to high-speed, reliable internet service.
The federal government and the Colorado Broadband Office have set new high-speed requirements for broadband constructed with the grant funds. The work must provide download speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 20 Mbps. The old requirements were 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up.
The funding will allow Visionary to provide state-of-the-art technology infrastructure known as “Fiber to the Home” internet service. Included in this upgrade will be the residential areas of Game Trail and Trails West on the edge of Buena Vista.
“Reliable, high-speed internet is no longer a luxury. It has become a vital resource for the economic stability of a community,” said Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Jake Rishavy. “It impacts our ability to recruit and retain a strong workforce and the companies that create high-paying jobs for locals.”
“The work Visionary Broadband will be doing in Buena Vista and Nathrop is a win for the residents and business owners,” he added. “Many of whom work, educate themselves, or access health care remotely, ensuring reliable connectivity in an area that has great need.”
Timelines are Tight
These new broadband grants are funded with federal money which is flowing through the states, and the states are in charge of the funding deployment. These first, grant-funded projects will begin almost immediately because to receive full funding, the projects must be completed by the end of 2026.
The recent Colorado Projects Fund (CPF) grant application process was highly competitive. There were 112 applications, whose combined projects sought $640 million in funding. Thirteen projects were awarded $113.5 million.
“Awarding such a large number of grants in such a short time was not a simple lift,” said Visionary Broadband CEO Brian Worthen. He complimented the Colorado Broadband Office saying, “It did a phenomenal job ensuring that the areas of greatest need in rural Colorado were prioritized and we are excited to get to work to deliver an exceptional product to these areas.”
It should be noted that this is an unprecedented amount of grant funding to roll out high-speed broadband across rural areas of the country. It has been compared to the federal rural electrification projects of the 1920s and 1930s. The U.S. has never before invested this much in broadband, which underlies the scramble to apply. The broadband providers with experience have risen to the top, primarily because they already have the systems in place to scale their operations.
About Visionary Broadband
In Colorado, Visionary Broadband is a rural broadband provider. It serves primarily mountain communities in western Colorado, areas where internet service has historically been difficult to provide due to the vast distances between users or the rugged, high-altitude topography of the Rocky Mountains.
Worthen adds that to meet the quick turnaround of these broadband grants, it helps to be a provider with a proven track record.
It was founded in 1994 in a rural community in Wyoming and is known as a homegrown rural internet provider that has developed technical abilities with a focus on reliability. Today, Visionary Broadband serves five states and has a proven track record of connecting the most rural communities, “bringing a commitment of efficiency, reliability, and affordability to its customers”.
For more about Visionary Broadband follow this link: https://www.vcn.com/
The question could be asked, “What about our local high-speed Internet provider Aristata Communications?”
The following answer has been provided by Aristata Communications CEO Carlin Walsh: “Aristata Communications has a long history of working with Visionary Broadband. When the opportunity to compete for the CPF grant monies arose, we knew our small telecom company could not afford the match requirement nor finish the project in the tight turnaround timeframe for completion. We were happy to support Visionary’s application in order to see our local community get connected to fiber through a rural company that delivers on its promises.”
Editor’s note: this round of grant funding is the first of two rounds of federal broadband grants. Announcement of the second round of grant funding commences in 2024, with awards announced in 2025.