By Dillon Thomas
WRAY, Colo. (CBS4)– A small town in northeastern Colorado has opted out of Senate Bill 152 in order to stay competitive with the growing Denver metro area.
The town of Wray began installation of a fiber optics system within town limits in order to provide modern access to high-speed broadband to their residents.
Wray, which is home to many businesses fueled by the agriculture industry, has fallen behind when it comes to internet speeds. City Manager James Depue told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas Wray was unable to attract the services of larger providers as their population totals less than 2,500.
Due to the lack of access to high-speed internet, the town’s businesses, schools, and overall quality of life at home has declined.
“I think we fall behind on nearly every state of our community,” Depue said. “I think it goes all the way down to the residential level, of your entertainment, and capability to stream movies, and have a wireless smart thermostat in your house. Those are things that are not an option.”
After opting out of Senate Bill 152 with nearly a three-quarters of voter approval, the town was given the chance to create their own broadband service.
Senate Bill 152 restrictions include that local governments may not provide subscribers cable television, telecommunications service, or advanced service, including high-speed internet.
Wray partnered with Yuma County and Plains Cooperative Telephones, in order to begin the project. The town’s fiber network will provide access to near-gigabyte speeds to all residents within town limits.
Ronny Puckett, General Manager at Plains Cooperative Telephone, says right now Wray residents, “Can’t have home shopping, or they can’t have the gaming, like they do in town.”
With the assistance of the county and the telephone company, crews have already started installation of fiber throughout the town. Fiber has been installed through both ground installation and wiring along the power lines throughout town.
“(Internet speeds) are going to be comparable, if not better, than some places,” Puckett said.
Depue said the new broadband internet should be available to all residents within Wray limits by Winter of next year.
Residents who live outside the town will also be given the opportunity to buy their way into the grid. Installation fees will be required for those outside the limits of Wray.
Depue said the new services could not only improve quality of life for residents at home, but could also improve the town’s economy.
Faster broadband was expected to attract more business to Wray, while also helping improve the education system for the town’s schools.
“(Wray) is a small rural community. People live here because they love the way of life,” Depue said. “They are all connected, in some way, to agriculture. But, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have the opportunities, and capabilities, that others in more urban areas have.”
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.