Colorado and Texas Municipal Broadband Networks Nab National Awards

Ft Collins sign in park lawn

From Colorado to Texas, municipal broadband providers continue to rack up industry accolades, not just for delivering fiber service–the gold standard of Internet connectivity–but for these networks’ ability to provide ubiquitous access across an entire community at affordable rates.

The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) recently announced that its Community Broadband Projects of the Year Awards for 2023 will go to the Connexion network in Fort Collins, Colorado and in Pharr, Texas.

Awarding Community-Wide Access and Affordability

The Fort Collins award is in recognition for the city having established “a municipal broadband utility created by and for the community to improve the life of all 80,000 residential and commercial properties of Fort Collins through better, more affordable Internet,” NATOA said in announcing the award.

Ft Collins NOC

But it wasn’t just because Fort Collins’ network provides city-wide access to fiber. The award also recognizes that “Connexion offers the fastest Internet speeds available at affordable prices (emphasis added) as well as competitive phone and TV services.”

And while many communities without municipal broadband networks are struggling to boost enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to help low-income households pay for the costly offerings of the monopoly incumbents–even as the federal program is on track to run out of funds by the summer of 2024–Fort Collins is also being lauded by NATOA for being a municipal Internet service provider (ISP) with “its own Digital Inclusion Program, which includes 1 GB symmetrical speeds for $20/month to income qualified residents.”

For subscribers who do not qualify for subsidized service, Connexion offers a symmetrical gig for $70/month; a 2 gig connection for $100/month; and even 10 gig service for $200/month. That includes home WiFi, no data caps, and free installation.

Building a Pharr Bridge Across Digital Divide is also being given Community Broadband Projects of the Year honors, specifically because officials in that city along the U.S.-Mexico border, have moved quickly to build “a completely owned and operated municipal fiber network with over 700 miles of fiber live in 2 of 3 geographical areas of the City.”

NATOA commended Pharr’s network as particularly important because “once completed, (it) will serve over 24,000 residential households and business accounts, not only small business but also produce and manufacturing companies due to (the) international bridge” that crosses into the city.

Of particular note, the NATOA announcement said, was the city’s partnership with the largest local school district in the region. Pharr already offers affordable (for most) rates of $50/month for gig speed service. However, with help from the ACP, 30,000 students are getting symmetrical 500 Megabits per second connectivity at no cost to qualifying households.

Pharr Net logo and tagline

Pharr’s focus on affordability and especially connecting households with school kids is similar to what we’ve seen in other cities with municipal networks, most notably Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber, working in conjunction with The Enterprise Center. That partnership led to the creation of HCS EdConnect, which offers a decade of fiber service to over 16,000 income-eligible students and their families at no cost to those households. 
Both Fort Collins and Pharr officials will receive their awards at NATOA’s Annual Conference, which will be held this year in Long Beach, CA Oct. 2-5.

Another Star for Fort Collins and NOCO

For Fort Collins’ Connexion network–which in recent years has been recognized by PCMag for being one of the 10 fastest ISPs in the nation–the awards didn’t end with the NATOA honor.

Fort Collins is also a part of a municipal-owned communications partnership known as Northern Colorado Community Fiber, which received the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) Star Award for going “above and beyond what is expected in the advancement of Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH).”

NoCo Fiber Community logo

NOCO Community Fiber–an intergovernmental organization comprised of Fort Collins Connexion, Larimer County, the city of Loveland’s Pulse network, Estes Park Trailblazer network, and Poudre Valley REA–was presented with the award in August at the Fiber Connect 2023 conference in Kissimmee, Florida.

“Collectively, the city-owned broadband utilities in the partnership have stood up the option for Fiber-to-the-Premise to over 125,000 addresses in five years. Now with an additional $10,000,000 in county and state funds, NOCO Community Fiber is working to serve 2,650 rural and harder-to-access locations, with more to come as financial resources are available,” FBA said in announcing the award.

Listen to our Community Broadband Bits podcast on how Fort Collins beat back a Comcast campaign to stop the city from building the network below:

Watch a short video of groundbreaking ceremony below:

Remote video URL

Header image courtesy of Fort Collins Connexion Facebook page

Inline image of Connexion operations center courtesy of Connexion Facebook page