Park City, county looking to increase broadband connectivity
Whether it’s for schools, businesses or streaming high-resolution videos, fast and reliable broadband connectivity is becoming more of a necessity in the world we live in. Summit County and Park City realize this and are looking at what broadband levels need to be for the future.
"Our need for bandwidth is only going to increase exponentially," said Summit County Economic Development Specialist Alison Weyher. "As we start to discover that we can do more and more things, we need more capabilities."
Weyher, who attended the 2013 Broadband Tech Summit hosted by The Utah Broadband Project and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development in October, is in the process of working with broadband providers, Park City and the Summit County Council to see how connectivity can be improved to underserved areas of the county.
Weyher pointed out there are large portions of the Snyderville Basin which are not receiving sufficient broadband speeds. The reason for this, she said, is because there are many different providers in the area that it may not be cost-effective for one company to expand its services.
Summit County Information Technology Director Ron Boyer said the Silver Creek and Tollgate neighborhoods are two particularly underserved areas in terms of broadband access. He wants Summit County and the Park City Municipal Corporation to study how access can be improved and what plan to go forward with.
"Would this mean partnering with more providers? Building a municipal [broadband] system?" Boyer said.
One component of future development Boyer said is important is fiber-to-the-home, or FTTH, in which optical fiber reaches to an individual’s home. Fiber-optic infrastructure is seen as important because of its ability to transmit over longer distances and at higher bandwidths.
"We really need to look at this from a planning perspective. Every time we tear up one of our roads, we need to have [fiber] infrastructure in place," Boyer said.
Weyher said that All West Communications, the sole provider of fixed broadband in the county, has been able to secure federal loans and grants to expand FTTH in Eastern Summit County. Because AllWest faces less competition on the East Side, she said, it can provide better service.
"We’re trying to push fiber closer and closer to customers," said AllWest Vice President of Operations Jack Walkenhorst. "We’ve made it a priority to do that to give our customers the best services we possibly can."
Scott Robertson, the information technology director with Park City, said that based on a survey, broadband service in the Park City area is "actually good" and ranges from anywhere between 24 and 100 megabits per second.
Robertson added that access might need to be expanded for the future. On Nov. 14, he said, the IT Department will propose some options to the Park City Council on a potential future fiber initiative.
"Though it’s very preliminary, we’ll figure out the scope to just businesses, to residents or everywhere?" Robertson said. "[Broadband] is the new medium to where we conduct business and expectations for that medium are growing."
Summit County will be scheduling a briefing on broadband issues for late November and will look to partner with local broadband providers in coming up with future solutions for improving connectivity.
"The speed of technological change is further driving innovation for bandwidth-hungry capabilities," Robertson said. "I’m excited for what the prospects will be."
For more information on the state’s Broadband Project and to view a map detailing broadband speeds, visit broadband.utah.gov.
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