It’s a widely-known fact that many rural areas throughout the United States have limited or unreliable access to broadband internet services.
Fourteen towns in western Colorado dealt with that unreliable service for so long that they had enough. According to the Colorado Sun, that’s why the governments from these town, collectively known as the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, or Northwest COG, teamed up for Project Thor.
Project Thor is a 481-mile broadband network that grants reliable service to the residents in the Northwest COG towns. After cuts in the internet line ranging from minor inconveniences to life-threatening – at times hospitals were unable to upload test results to partners in Denver to get critical analysis – the towns decided to solve the problem on their own. The Sun describes Project Thor as the “middle mile of physical lines sitting between the greater internet and an internet service provider that serves consumers.”
While some healthcare facilities have been using the service since the summer, residents of the area have officially begun reaping the benefits of Project Thor in the past few weeks.
According to the Sun, in 2005 a Colorado law was passed preventing municipalities from becoming internet providers. However, communities began to opt out of the bill, and while criticism from cable and telecom industry reps has been constant, Project Thor provides an example of what can be done when opting out of Senate Bill 152.
Northwest COG owns the Thor network, with the council made up of governments in Jackson, Grand, Summit, Eagle, and Pitkin, according to the Sun. Not all governments joined as partners, though all counties and some neighboring communities helped finance and now utilize the project.
After studying internet service in the region in 2013, the governments concluded that it needed to do something for its residents. That’s where Project Thor was born. Project Thor built a series of loops to provide alternate fiber lines, so if one was cut there would be no disruption in internet service.
Project Thor has not only resulted in added reliability, but affordability as well. The Steamboat Springs school district, for example, is paying $500 a month less for ten times the amount of bandwidth, according to the Sun.
This project goes to show how important internet access is to all areas of the country, however densely populated. In addition, it shows that reliable internet access can be achieved by government bodies – something many opponents of big cable companies have been touting for year.