Snowmass gets a backbone of infrastructure for high-speed internet

Underground conduit is prepared for high-speed internet along Owl Creek Road in Snowmass Village on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun)

The main arteries of Snowmass Village are getting bored.

That’s actually helpful, though, for the town’s infrastructure: crews began work on Oct. 28 boring into the ground and plowing the soil along road shoulders to install a backbone of conduit for a high-speed internet connection from Highway 82 up into the village along Owl Creek, Brush Creek and Highline roads.

The upper Owl Creek Road section kicked off installation and will take one to two weeks to complete, then crews will begin installing the conduit along Brush Creek Road, with work expected to last through November. When all is said and done, the town will have the infrastructure in place to provide high-speed internet to a number of town facilities including Town Hall, the recreation center and the public works department.



For now, the focus is on providing town-owned facilities and offices, though the installation now will lay the groundwork to potentially provide connections to “anchor institutions” such as the Little Red Schoolhouse, the fire station and the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District, according to Elliott.

“We plan to extend the invitation, if you will, to our other stakeholders and community partners. … We haven’t really had any conversations with whatever the potential cost might be, but we’re certainly building the network to accommodate (them),” he said.



And eventually, the connection could extend to private customers like residents and businesses, Elliott said.

Work will have minimal impacts to drivers throughout the village since the installation takes place primarily on the shoulder of the road. There may be brief, temporary one-lane closures but no detours for drivers or Village Shuttle passengers.

That’s because unlike work on, say, a water line, the installation of the conduit doesn’t require much digging or “open trenching,” according to Elliott. The boring process is akin to sticking a “really long, flexible drill bit” into the soil to reach the desired depth and work from there, he said.

As for the plowing, the process looks a lot different from plowing snow off the roads in the winter.

“It’s kind of crazy. … You’re essentially like zippering the ground to kind of open it up, and it literally opens it up, it lays your conduit and folds the dirt back over, all in kind of one pass with the equipment,” Assistant Town Manager Travis Elliott said.

The excavation that is occurring is primarily for boxes and handholes that help serve several functions like providing access to the conduit and facilitating drainage.

The current installation focuses on creating the “middle mile” of infrastructure (metaphorically speaking, since there will be nearly 48,000 feet of conduit needed to connect the town to the line along Highway 82), but an internet service provider could partner with the town in the future to install that “last mile” and get high-speed internet to individual customers.

“The opportunities are endless, in terms of connectivity. … Because we’re strategically locating the fiber, we think we have a good idea of where those customers might be, such as our employee housing,” Elliott said. “We’re going to run it right in front of those complexes and make it as easy and as economical as possible for someone to come in and light them up with high-speed internet and make it hopefully affordable in the process.”

But all those residences and businesses might still notice the effects of the high-speed internet infrastructure long before it actually makes it into their homes.

There will be benefits for the town’s internal network, which is currently linked via a wireless connection that isn’t the most efficient and encounters problems when there are outages.

Data is stored in the servers in Town Hall, the phone lines are based on an internet connection and security cameras around town are connected to the network, so if the network goes down, it could impact efficiency, communication and even tools that public safety officials use to keep an eye on town happenings or solve crimes, Elliott said.

The fiber system is more “resilient” and has redundancies that will help prevent problems like that in the future, he said.

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