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Cortez Council moves forward with broadband pilot

Residents may sign up for wireless plan
Stephanie Alderton/The Journal<br><br>Councilman Bob Archibeque examines a GigaCenter at the Cortez council workshop on March 13.

The Cortez City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the fees and costs for a broadband pilot program.

Through the program, dubbed the Cortez Community Network Pilot, the city will install in-home wireless devices called GigaCenters, and provide fiber to connect some residents with the city’s existing network.

Installation will cost $150, and participants in the pilot will pay $60 per month, plus a $10 rental fee for the device, to get internet speeds of up to 100 Mbps. The program is designed to test whether the city can become a long-term internet service provider.

General Services Director Rick Smith proposed the project during a council workshop on March 13, saying it could help the city provide high-speed internet directly to more residents, which has been a longtime goal for his department.

Depending on how the program goes, the General Services department might end up building a citywide network.

The city already has a fiber network in several areas of town, including some residential areas. According to the resolution that the council approved, the CCN pilot will charge $150 for city staff to install up to 250 feet of additional fiber to connect homes with that network, but residents will be responsible for digging the ditches through which the fiber can run. The $10 rental fee for a GigaCenter will include a replacement in case it is damaged.

Smith’s proposal could potentially provide more bandwidth to participants than the commercial internet providers on which most Cortez residents have relied in the past. According to its website, CenturyLink offers speeds of up to 20 Mbps for a minimum of $45 per month to Cortez residents. A Montezuma County-based provider, Zumacom, advertises up to 25 Mbps for $129.99 per month.

Smith said the CCN Pilot program is in high demand.

“I’ve got about a dozen people waiting to get on the pilot already,” he said.

Most of the council members’ discussion during their meeting focused on potential legal issues with the pilot, like whether the city would be liable to pay for a stolen GigaCenter, and whether the fiber installed as part of the project would belong to the city or the resident. City Manager Shane Hale said he believed stolen devices would be covered by residents’ insurance, and City Attorney Mike Green said all materials provided by the city will still belong to the city throughout the program.

Mayor Karen Sheek praised Smith and the city staff for moving forward so quickly with the project. She asked Smith to keep the council updated on how many people join the pilot.

“I think we should have a giant thermometer down there at the Service Center ... to show progress,” she joked.

On Wednesday, Smith confirmed via email that 11 residents and businesses are in various stages of being connected through the pilot program. He said 58 other people and businesses have requested broadband when it becomes available in their areas.

Anyone interested in joining the pilot should go to the Cortez Service Center on 110 W. Progress Circle to find out whether it’s available to them, he said. Right now, the pilot is limited to parts of the city where fiber has already been installed.

Other action

During the meeting, the Council also:

Issued a proclamation declaring April as Child Abuse Awareness Month, after a presentation from the Four Corners Child Advocacy Center.Approved the final reading of an amendment to the land use code that will allow schools in the open zoning district.Approved the final reading of an ordinance creating a Board of Appeals to handle challenges to the city’s building codes.Approved the final purchase of 50 acres of land belonging to Keith Evans, which will be added to the Geer Natural Area.Issued a proclamation declaring April 19 as the date of the city’s Arbor Day celebration.Awarded bids to A to Z Recreation, to install a new playground structure at the South Softball Complex, and to Bravo! Cleaning and Restoration for janitorial services at city-owned park and sport facility restrooms. Approved a 40-year land lease to Lane Kim, who plans to build a new hangar for personal use at the Cortez Municipal Airport. Appointed Kenneth Quigley to the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Advisory Board.Approved USI as the new insurance broker for the city.

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