Residents in north Colorado Springs neighborhoods have a new option for high-speed internet through Ting, the company announced Tuesday via the first phase of a new fiber-optic network that will stretch across the city.
Colorado Springs Utilities is building the fiber network for internal needs and to lease out to private companies, and so far has spent $37 million on the project that could cost $600 million, said Utilities spokesman Steve Berry. The initial investment has been enough to light the fiber and start providing service to residents and businesses, a milestone that Utilities officials and company representatives celebrated Tuesday at Boot Barn Hall.
Utilities board member Dave Donelson, who also serves as a Colorado Springs City councilmember, lauded the milestone and explained leasing out the fiber makes financial sense and will cut years off the expected construction timeline. The project could have stretched into 2035 but is now expected to be complete by 2028, he said.
Ting has contracted with Utilities to pay $593 million over 25 years to lease extra fiber space, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Utilities could have additional tenants, as well, to help cover the cost.
“We have saved our ratepayers a substantial amount of money. How is that not good?” he said.
While officials celebrated the milestone, the construction drew critics after damaging irrigation infrastructure in Flying Horse, a problem Utilities staff say they hope to avoid in the future as they continue to put in lines along rights of way.
The new fiber network was needed in part because electrical generation is becoming more distributed, and the system will help govern the flow of electrons. Utilities is making the system a bit larger to facilitate tenants, and it is expected to help close the digital divide once it reaches less-affluent neighborhoods.
Ting is expected to compete against companies such as MetroNet, Underline and others that are also providing fiber internet services.
Community Engagement and Public Affairs Manager Deb Walker couldn’t speak to the number of customers Ting might need to stay in the market, but she pointed to the long-term contract as evidence the company is committed to the community long term.
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Since starting construction in September, Utilities work has triggered vocal concern from the Flying Horse Homeowners Association after workers damaged irrigation lines and other infrastructure. The HOA outlined their concern in a letter to members.
“The damage is significant and includes multiple line breaks, clogged water lines and sprinkler heads, controller wire damage, and controller damage. Additionally, there are five major electrical lines that power the irrigation system that have been cut on HOA/Metro District 1 property with an estimated repair cost of around $45,000,” the letter said.
A Utilities subcontractor was supposed to make repairs but ended up making the situation worse, and so the maintenance company for the HOA took over the work, but has not been reimbursed, the letter said.
In response, Berry said Utilities asked the HOA’s management company to register underground utility systems with Colorado 811, which provides utility locating services, and failure to register makes them liable for the damage.
Flying Horse HOA board member Dan Mulloy said the HOA did work with Colorado 811 but they don’t locate irrigation systems or conduit, and that contributed to the problems. He expects future fiber construction will cause similar problems elsewhere.
“It’s going to happen throughout the city,” he said.
Brian Wortinger, fiber optics and telecommunications manager, said Utilities has been in touch with 1,100 HOAs across the city to help prevent future conflicts.
Utilities expects to work in the Rockrimmon area in the next phase of the fiber project, according to its website.
Wortinger could not speak to when the project might reach other neighborhoods.
On Colorado Springs’ north side, Ting is providing 2-gigabit fiber internet for $89 a month. Some households may qualify for free internet based on income, Walker said.