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Greeley, Colo., Weighs Potential of City-Run Internet Against Existing Failed Service

According to a city consultant, more than 49 percent of the broadband speeds tested failed to meet federal standards.

(TNS) — Half of Greeley, Colo., residents who had internet speeds tested are dealing with speeds slower than the Federal Communications Commission standard, and large swaths of the city have no reliable internet access, a consultant hired by Greeley reported Tuesday during a Greeley City Council work session.

The information prefaced an update from Glenwood Springs-based NEO Connect CEO Diane Kruse, whose company was hired to study city-provided broadband services in Greeley and Windsor.

Greeley residents voted Nov. 7 to allow Greeley to explore setting up broadband services, and now the city is studying the matter, surveying residents and building a plan that could come before voters again as soon as the November 2018 election.

Greeley joined dozens of municipalities that have explored setting up their own internet service. Longmont provides its own retail internet option, an option that already has the largest market share in the city. The wave of city-provided broadband has its genesis in slower-than-desired internet, among other issues, something Kruse pointed to with data her consulting firm already has gathered in Greeley.

That data, based on 393 speed tests, show 49.5 percent of those tested fell below the FCC standard for broadband speed, with 90 percent of the speed tests administered in north and east Greeley showing failure to meet that standard.

The FCC standard, 25 megabits per second, is the minimum speed at which the FCC defines "broadband," and it's the lowest speed Netflix recommends for ultra high-definition video streaming.

It's also the threshold for many government grants available to communities with internet access issues. Service providers in Greeley paint a different picture, reporting to the FCC that 95 percent of customers have access to 25 megabits per second speeds.

Access to service, period, is another issue, with chunks of the city suffering from a lack of access altogether, according to the consultant's data.

Greeley City Councilwoman Rochelle Galindo, who represents Ward 1, said it makes sense the north and east parts of town — the parts in her ward — struggle with internet access. It's an older part of town, and internet infrastructure also is older.

Still, Galindo said she's excited to get more information from the study, something that should come this spring.

Mayor John Gates said the scope of the problem surprised him, but he stressed the city still should proceed with caution when it comes to setting up its own service.

If the city goes that route, there will be a fight. Fort Collins residents just passed an internet service plan in the face of $900,000 in spending against the measure — money that came mostly from the broadband industry, according to reporting from The Fort Collins Coloradoan.

©2017 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.