Internet service in Bayfield is likely to improve in the coming year as companies plan expansions in the area.
Brainstorm Internet and AlignTec, wireless internet providers, and FastTrack Communications, an internet provider that serves businesses, all plan to expand service in the community.
Bayfield has long been on the “fringe” of fiber-optic investments regionally because major fiber lines that connect towns to one another don’t extend east of town to Pagosa Springs or beyond, said Sid Arnold, general manager of Brainstorm.
“If you have even one major backbone going through a community, then you have options,” he said.
The large lines can open opportunities for private companies to expand services, but without them, communities struggle, he said.
“Bayfield is ripe for needing broadband,” said Arnold, a resident of the community.
Brainstorm has already invested in fiber-optic lines in the community that will likely allow for expansion of Brainstorm’s wireless and fiber network, he said. He expects both projects to start this summer. Currently, Brainstorm customers in Bayfield must be within line-of-sight to Brainstorm’s infrastructure to receive wireless internet.
AlignTec recently started serving the northern section of the Dove Ranch subdivision north of Bayfield. It also has plans to start serving downtown Bayfield and the southern portion of Dove Ranch this year, said Orion Lukasik, CEO of the company.
“Bayfield people have been really jumping up and down for some better options,” he said.
FastTrack Communications plans to expand fiber-optic infrastructure in town before the end of the year, said General Manager Kelly Hebbard. She could not say exactly where the new fiber will be installed for competitive reasons, she said.
FastTack provides internet services directly to businesses. Once FastTrack’s fiber is in place, wireless internet companies, such as AlignTec, can expand in the area to serve residents, she said. The company offers some services in the area and relies, in part, on fiber owned by the town of Bayfield, she said.
FastTrack was started by La Plata Electric Association and Empire Electric to serve residents in the area. So when the company installs new infrastructure, no costs are passed on to customers within the service areas of its founding electrical co-ops, she said.
However, FastTrack’s service areas extend far beyond the three counties served by LPEA and Empire, she said. The company serves Aztec, Farmington, Montrose and Grand Junction among other communities, so it can bring profits back into the communities it was founded to serve, she said.
Businesses in Gem Village, just west of Bayfield, are pleased with FastTrack’s recent expansion into their community, said Tracy McCracken, owner of Valley Feed and Ranch Supply. She hooked up to the new FastTrack service in January.
“They knew that we were suffering here, big time,” McCracken said of FastTrack.