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High-speed internet arrives in Bayfield

Virtually every household and business can tap into fiber-optic line
La Plata County Commissioner Matt Salka, left, Bayfield Mayor Ashleigh Tarkington, center, and Clearrnetworx owner Doug Seacat cut the ribbon at the fiber optic ribbon-cutting ceremony in Bayfield on Friday in front of the Dove Ranch subdivision. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

BAYFIELD – It wasn’t long ago that staff members at Brenda’s Old West Cafe in Bayfield had to run customers’ credit cards multiple times before they would go through.

That all changed a couple of months ago when the restaurant tapped into a new fiber-optic line that provides high-speed internet connectivity, said Kim Shuttlesworth, a host at the restaurant.

“We would have to run the card three to four times, shut the machine down at times and bring it back up to get it to work,” she said. “It was just very, very, very slow.”

The town of Bayfield is celebrating a major milestone: Fiber-optic conduit has been laid throughout the town, providing residents and businesses with access to high-speed internet.

Kim Shuttlesworth, a host at Brenda’s Old West Cafe, runs a credit card on Friday at the restaurant in Bayfield. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Town officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at the entrance of Dove Ranch subdivision to mark the occasion.

“We have fiber all through town now,” Town Manager Katie Sickles said. “ … It’s great to have broadband options for Bayfield, not only for people working at home, enjoying their Netflix or whatever, but also our businesses.”

Most “anchor institutions,” like schools and town government, will also have access to high-speed internet, she said.

This town of 2,900 residents could double in size within the next 10 years, based on building permits and the number of proposed subdivisions, town officials said. The widespread availability of high-speed internet only makes the town more desirable to remote employees and commercial businesses, Sickles said.

La Plata County Commissioner Matt Salka, who has helped lead efforts to expand broadband across the region, said some people think it is all about being able to watch Netflix and other streaming services. But a number of key services like telehealth and educational classes are now conducted online, he said.

“This is a great start,” he said at Friday’s ribbon-cutting.

Clearnetworx was awarded the contract to install fiber conduit throughout the town. The company has installed about 31 miles of fiber cable, which includes about 220 miles of glass strand, according to the company.

The network is designed to serve more than 1,400 homes and businesses in the Bayfield area. Of those, 370 addresses, or about 26% of potential customers, have preordered the service.

Clearnetworx had 56 customers on the network as of early last week, and has been adding more every week, a company official wrote in an email to The Durango Herald.

Clearnetworx was also awarded a $13 million grant project to extend fiber along Florida Road (County Road 240) northeast of Durango and County Road 501 north of Bayfield. Those lines will provide high-speed services to the Vallecito and Forest Lakes areas, plus other neighborhoods along the routes.

Nicol Killian, Bayfield’s community development director, said the installation of conduit caused headaches for drivers and residents last summer throughout Bayfield. Friday’s ribbon-cutting was in some ways a nice way to mark the end of heavy construction and the beginning of high-speed connectivity, she said.

“It’s been impactful to our community – just having all the trenches open – and it’s impacted everybody’s property because it’s the right of way in front of everyone’s property,” she said. “It’s just been a big process for the community.”

The town oversaw a grant to help get the fiber installation going, she said. The conduit was laid in the public right of way. Clearnetworx is installing its fiber, but other service providers will be able to install their fiber, too.

“We’re going to own it (the conduit) and we’re going to work on a lease agreement with each service provider as they’re interested,” Killian said.

Bayfield resident Stacy Shablo said she recently went from about 12 Mbps to 200 Mbps after connecting to the new fiber infrastructure. She pays about $60 per month, which is only $10 more than she was paying, she said.

“Before, I couldn’t be on my phone or tablet and watch a movie at the same time, and now I can,” she said.


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