The Middle Mile
Our members value the reliable electric service we provide and many have expressed interest in how we can expand our offerings to support access to high-speed broadband internet services for faster, more reliable internet speeds.
We are undergoing a Grid Communication Improvement Project where we are installing fiber optic cable on our existing power lines. This project will improve our technical communication which helps us better manage our electric grid, improves service to you, and quickens restoration times.
This project can potentially help bring broadband internet services to Northern Colorado.
Grid Communication Improvement Project
Our plan is to build a portion of the broadband network called the “middle mile” – the backbone of the broadband network.
This enables us to attract and open the door for third-party broadband providers to come into our area and provide internet service.
To help bring broadband to underserved areas, we are including accommodations in our fiber construction plan that builds the middle mile backbone – without significantly impacting our finances or electric rates.
Our plan is to lease the middle mile to third-parties that have expertise and personnel we lack. Through this approach, we can utilize our resources and infrastructure to help enable broadband internet service in our region in a cost-effective manner. It’s just one of the many ways we’re looking out for you, our members, by providing added value to your lives.
PVREA contractor, MasTec, is installing fiber on existing overhead and underground power lines. Members may see bucket trucks and crews with boring equipment around their homes and/or businesses. We expect no disruption to your electric service while we’re doing this work.
Why We Don’t Provide Broadband Internet
Fortunately, over 90% of households in our service territory have high-speed internet today – and over 50% already have broadband. Nevertheless, we want to help address the gap in high-speed internet and broadband service – an identified need from some of our members and community leaders.
We tapped into an industry-leading consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study that incorporated member feedback and evaluation of our business model. The research showed if we provided a broadband service directly to our members it would require a $120 million capital investment in easements, labor, construction, equipment, legal, and other related costs.
Much of this cost is due to our service territory’s rugged terrain and the number of people we serve per mile of line. We only serve 10 members per mile of electric distribution line. Meanwhile, municipal utilities serving more urban environments, like our neighbors in Fort Collins, average 48 customers per mile. Because of these factors, the research showed that on a year-to-year basis, there would always be more money going out than coming in.
The “last mile” model, where we would be the broadband provider with rates competitive with other similar service providers, simply never cash flows. Starting a PVREA broadband business could likely result in future electric rate increases and conflicts with our mission to keep rates affordable.
With these results, we decided to support a path for broadband internet by utilizing our Grid Communication Improvement Project to open the door for the middle mile.