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Silverton finally gets broadband

After years of using out-of-date technology, the small mountain town joins the modern age
After years of delays, the town of Silverton is finally getting broadband through Vero Fiber Networks. (Associated Press file)

After years of hurdles and disappointments, the small town of Silverton has finally received what it has wanted for years: broadband Wi-Fi.

“It was a huge challenge for us,” said DeAnne Gallegos, executive director of the Silverton Chamber of Commerce. “It seems to be finally shaking out, which is a big deal, especially with the surge in telecommuters we now have in our population. We always knew that would be an important aspect.”

The long road to getting broadband into the isolated valley was fraught with trial and error, including the town’s history with CenturyLink, which caused delays in getting fiber-optic lines into the town.

In 2000, CenturyLink received a $37 million contract from the state to provide every county seat with a fiber-optic line. The company installed a microwave link in Silverton instead, promising it would be an interim solution. Frustrated with the slow process, Silverton began to look for other competitors with better offers.

Town managers turned to Brainstorm Internet in 2016 to continue laying down fiber optical lines. Brainstorm and its parent company, Forethought.net, was eventually bought out by Vero Broadband after going into bankruptcy. The company then had to decide if it wanted to continue Brainstorm’s work in bringing broadband to every Silverton resident.

“Silverton sits in a pocket where it’s hard to hardwire things,” said Gretchen Geary, Vero’s market development manager. “The cable system there is archaic. It’s a DSL (Digital Subscriber Line). It kept going down because it hadn’t been maintained.”

Those at Vero recognized the yearslong struggle Silveron residents had endured in trying to get broadband and decided to make it a priority to get the rest of the fiber-optics line laid as quickly as it could.

“They were really struggling,” Geary said. “The town would go down for a week. I don’t know how they could function. Silverton deserved to get fiber optics, and we wanted to make sure everyone is included.”

Geary is proud to say that over 600 Silverton homes now have live and operational broadband, with only a handful of residents remaining unconnected.

“We did as much as we could before December,” she said. “Now we make our schedule on a weather basis. We have a 10 gig circuit out of Durango, which provides plenty of bandwidth to the entire town. We also provide a redundant network out of Silverton, if the 10 gig were to go down.”

The recent storms that left several feet of snow in the town did not deter Vero from continuing to install the fiber-optic lines.

“We’re mostly in the air on the poles,” Geary said. “We install from the pole to the unit and then from outside the unit to inside the house. It’s a two-step process.”

Geary also emphasizes that there are discounts available to those in a service position in the town, such as teachers, firefighters and military, through Vero.

“We’re helping them get discounts where they can,” Geary said. “The community has been very welcoming to us. They’ve been great and really helpful.”

Geary and Gallegos credit several institutions, such as the officials at San Juan Development, San Miguel Power and Region 9, including Executive Director Laura Lewis, with help in getting the grants to fund an installation of more fiber-optic lines between Silverton to Ouray (where Vero has already put in lines) to create a redundant circular network between the towns.

“There’s basically been a consortium of users and providers trying to find solutions to (getting broadband to) the region,” Geary said.

molsen@durangoherald.com

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that grants obtained by San Juan Development, San Miguel Power and Region 9 had helped fund the fiber-optic lines in Silverton. The grants funded only the lines Vero will install between Silverton and Ouray.

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