MONTROSE, Colo. (CBS4)– Darnell Place-Wise knows Montrose and Delta counties are the hidden gems of Colorado.

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“People want to live on the Western Slope of Colorado,” the Delta County Public Information Officer for Marketing and Tourism told CBS4 this week. “Generally speaking the climate is amazing … we don’t have the traffic.”

The area is attracting lots of new residents, and in a world where so much of our lives are online, she worries its current level of internet connectivity may not be ideal.

“Broadband is an absolute must-have for people who telecommute or even shop,” she says.

Another “Western-Sloper” who knows the value of a good connection is David Starr. He owns Starr’s Guitars in Cedaredge and says without a fast connection, he wouldn’t be able to sell or buy online.

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“It’s critical that that be almost real-time,” he says.

Even though they both have high-speed internet in town, both David and Darnell say many of their rural neighbors don’t have access to broadband internet.

“When the pandemic really kicked in there were all of these people that needed to work from home and their kids needed to be connected,” says David.

Darnell says, “So many kiddos in our district live so far out from the center of any community that it really was a struggle.”

That’s why the USDA gave Delta Montrose Electric Association a $10.5 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network. It’s part of the $550 million Congress allocated to the second round of the reconnect program.

David says faster internet will help the community grow even more.

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“In a time when people seem to be seeking out places to live fast broadband connectivity is a huge plus,” he says.

The funded service area includes 2,410 households, 6,877 people, three educational facilities, 89 businesses and 115 farms spread over 126 square miles.

Michael Abeyta