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Cortez Broadband Project Estimated at $14 Million; Consultants Suggest Sales Tax

Austin Cope

The future of broadband internet services in the city of Cortez may be up to the city council. On May 23rd, consultants hired by the city to do a feasibility study on providing fiber to the home said the cost could be more than $14 million. They said the only way such a project could pay for itself would be if it were financed through a sales tax. Chris Konechne of Finley Engineering told an audience of about two dozen that there are several obstacles to citywide broadband. Rock makes drilling to bury fiber very costly. Attaching fiber to electric poles can also be expensive because the costs of upgrading the poles would be borne by the entity attaching the fiber.

Doug Dawson of CCG Consulting said traditionally such projects are financed through bonds, but his report estimated the city would lose $11 million to nearly $20 million over 25 years if it tries that approach, partly because of the interest involved. He said a sales tax of a quarter-cent over 20 years or a higher amount for a shorter time would enable the city to make money instead. Dawson said a survey found most city residents aren’t getting the full broadband speeds they are paying for and that the amount they pay to providers such as Centurylink and TDS Telecom varies widely. He recommended the city conduct a survey to gauge residents’ interest in citywide broadband. It will be up to the council to decide whether to move forward.

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