Public comment sought for Chalk Creek broadband grant application

Public comment is needed to bolster the changes of a $1.62 million grant application to bring broadband service to Alpine and other Chalk Creek Canyon residents.

The application, submitted in January by Colorado Central Telecom with the support of Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort and Chaffee County, is currently under consideration by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Several other projects are vying for DORA broadband grant funding. The state broadband board will consider public comments when reviewing grant applications, and residents of Chalk Creek west of Mount Princeton Hot Springs are being urged to submit comments before the March 20 deadline.

“The prospect of bringing broadband — which today is an essential utility, even if it is yet to be regulated as such —to an underserved area is exciting,” Commissioner Keith Baker said. “There is a significant public safety dimension to the project, as many homes now rely on voice-over-internet for their telephone service, and the St. Elmo-Hancock-Tincup Pass area is one of our most heavily-visited destinations for heritage tourism and backcountry exploration.”

Broadband service is currently unavailable to Chalk Creek Canyon residents west of Mount Princeton Hot Springs. The proposed project would deploy fiber approximately 13 miles along County Road 162 west from the U.S. 24/285 intersection to the village of Alpine, providing fiber-based broadband service to adjoining residents. Broadband service is currently unavailable to most Chalk Creek Canyon residents west of Mount Princeton Hot Springs.

Though funding was not available to extend connectivity an additional 3.5 miles from Alpine to St. Elmo, the proposed project would enable future broadband deployment. Thousands of visitors flock to St. Elmo every year, but the ghost town lacks both cellular, broadband and landline phone service. This creates a major challenge for emergency first responders, who have limited communication options in the area.

Comments may be submitted at www.colorado.gov/pacific/dora-broadband-fund/apps-received. Follow the “this form” link to submit comments. The application number is 2019-13 and the applicant name is Colorado Central Telecom. The public is being encouraged to include speed test results with their commentary, as the state’s broadband map incorrectly shows internet service available in the Chalk Creek Canyon area.

“The broadband board really likes to see these speed test numbers from people in the community,” said grant writer Denise Shorey, who worked on the application on behalf of Mount Princeton Hot Springs’ parent company, Morgan Reed. Shorey recommends submitting results from two sites, www.speedtest.net and http://maps.co.gov/publicspeed/

“It may seem like a duplication of work, but the committee really respects the data from two different tests that shows the same result, “she said. Shorey is available at [email protected] for questions or additional comments.

A previous effort to deploy broadband service to St. Elmo was abandoned due to legalities around right-of-way access. The current proposal uses county easements, thereby circumventing the right-of-way issue.

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