By: Sean Gonsalves & Christopher Mitchell (The American Prospect)
Doug Seacat, founder of the Ridgway, Colorado–based IT consulting company Deeply Digital, got a call several years ago from one of his biggest clients. CenturyLink, the only internet service provider in the region, initially said it could provide him a high-speed fiber connection, but then decided it couldn’t.
Though Deeply Digital wasn’t in the fiber business at the time, Seacat decided to run a fiber line for his client. That was the spark for a new company, Clearnetworx, which would offer fiber and wireless internet service in an area where poor internet connectivity was the norm. He wanted Clearnetworx to connect the entire 1,000-person town of Ridgway. What he didn’t consider was that state broadband programs are focused more on protecting incumbent providers.
Small towns on Colorado’s Western Slope face high costs to build the local network and interconnect it to the larger internet. They also don’t contain enough population to make a startup broadband provider’s business model work without some kind of subsidy. Colorado had created just such a program…