This post originally appeared on my Thought Distillery site in November of 2020 and was written before Starlink became more widely available. Given the train wreck that is Elon Musk, we’ll see how long it is before Starlink goes off the rails, just like Twitter.
First, A Note About Privilege
To have the resources and employment to even consider a move at this time and to base decision criteria on availability of high-speed internet is a place of privilege, I recognize. I share the resources below with that awareness because I am already doing this research and know that others are, too, so I want to save people time with what I’ve already learned. At the same time, when in that place of privilege, it’s easy to take all of this for granted. Let’s not do that. Let’s remember that the Digital Divide is real and so are the vast inequities that go along with it. Whether that’s working from home, having access to telehealth services, or getting our kiddos online for remote schooling during the pandemic, there are estimated to be at least 20-40 million Americans who still don’t have access to broadband and numbers much higher in developing and least developed countries. We’re talking billions of humans across the planet who don’t have access. “ITU estimates that at the end of 2019, 53.6 per cent of the global population, or 4.1 billion people, are using the Internet.” (ITU is the International Telecommunication Union, a “specialized agency” of the UN.) According to the World Economic Forum, “fewer than 1 in 5 people in the least developed countries are connected.“
Relocating Based on High-Speed Internet
NPR recently reported that an estimated 14-23 million Americans are planning to relocate, based on a new study from freelancing platform, Upwork.
While I’ve been fully remote for five years, my husband and I are also in that bucket of considering a move (side note, here’s my data-driven, climate change-aware look at how we’ve been approaching narrowing down our location).
I’ve been researching broadband availability around the state of Colorado as our family considers a potential relocation of home and business. High-speed internet access is a must-have requirement in that search. While some providers still describe 5 Mbps download speeds as “high-speed” and charge accordingly, note that by current definition (though established in 2015), according to the FCC, “high-speed” means at least 25 Mbps. (If you want to test out how slower speeds might feel, keep reading).
While there is some availability of broadband in the areas we’re considering, it’s often in the town centers and we’re looking at being a bit more remote. That could entail a hefty bill and months of back-and-forth to secure permits and permissions to bring lines to a property we don’t yet own and haven’t yet identified. It’s tricky to do this leg work in advance – chicken and egg. I want to easily be able to identify where existing lines are at a highly detailed level in order to decide whether or not a house or piece of land is worth looking at, based on the potential expense and level of difficulty it will entail to get fast internet there.
Talk to people! We can only figure out so much based on what’s on the web. I’m finding the most accurate and richest information by connecting with locals in the areas we’re looking at. (For resources specific to Colorado if you’re considering a move here, see below.)
This includes things like:
- Putting out feelers in regional, industry Slack groups and forums to identify people working from the locations we’re considering (you can search for startup, freelancer, creative, and developer Slack groups, for example)
- Reaching out to local SBDCs – Small Business Development Centers
- Regional, county, and state-based broadband coalitions, co-ops, committees
- Local economic development corporations
- Rural business initiatives
- Rural broadband initiatives
- ISPs themselves
- BroadbandNow (note their Advertiser Disclosure but they mention those relationships don’t influence their independence)
- The FCC Fixed Broadband Deployment map and processes are notoriously inaccurate and flawed, but it’s another source of information (and there are efforts to improve it in the works, at least – see the Broadband DATA Act and more on that here through Connected Nation)
Are You a Remote Worker Considering a Move to Colorado?
Colorado Broadband Coverage Maps
- Colorado Broadband Map | Colorado.gov
- Colorado Broadband Board Toolkit | Colorado.gov
- BroadbandNow | Colorado Map
Other Government Agencies That Play a Role in Broadband in CO
- Colorado Broadband Office
- Broadband Program | Department of Local Affairs (DOLA)
- Colorado Broadband Fund through Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA)
- Broadband Deployment Board
Local Rural Providers/Co-Ops (Work in Progress – Will Update as I Learn More)
- CO Central Telecom (fixed line-of-sight wireless and fiber, 5-100 Mbps download, area served = Chaffee and Lake Counties)
- South Park Telephone (5-100 Mbps download, area served = Fairplay and surrounding areas)
- Ciello (25 Mbps-1Gbps download, area served = San Luis Valley)
Other Useful Articles/Tools
- Connected Nation
- For technical folks looking to simulate slower speeds to decide what you can tolerate, check out throttling in developer tools
Rural Colorado sees more broadband options coming online. But getting up to speed is taking longer than anticipated in some areas. | The Colorado Sun
- Project THOR: NWCCOG (Northwest Colorado Council of Governments) – “Project THOR is a middle-mile network establishing carrier-class connectivity between 14 communities across Northwest Colorado and the NWCCOG Point of Presence in Denver.”
Other Research Questions I’m Exploring and Don’t Yet Have Answers To
- How would a small business owner begin to navigate bringing fiber to a property that doesn’t yet exist? What grant opportunities might be available and who do I need to connect with? Where do I start, in other words?
- As a property owner, could I consider installing fixed wifi in order to be able to offer it to neighboring properties? What would that process look like? Could I then share in the revenue on that service?