Project Thor aims to bring Summit County into broadband future

Project Thor, a regional broadband network, promises to create more robust broadband and communications systems in two Summit County towns and 11 other communities across northwest Colorado.
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FRISCO — Summit County businesses and government agencies are getting a big broadband boost thanks to Project Thor, a regional high-speed broadband access project that is providing 13 communities across northwest Colorado access to high-speed exchanges on the Front Range.

Project Thor, provided by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, is a “middle mile” network made up of 400 miles of public and private fiber optic cable that have been woven together into a fat pipe of carrier-grade 100 gigabyte fiber, upgradable to 200 gigabytes. 

For Summit, the most significant benefit from Project Thor is how it will bolster the county’s emergency communications systems in the case of a major system outage in the area, which has crippled communications across the county in the past.

“In towns and counties, you usually have a single network provider, a single point-to-point communication route back to the internet,” Summit County Information Systems Director Andy Atencio said. “If that provider goes down, then all connectivity is lost. But Thor provides resiliency and redundancy, with every access point having multiple routes in and out.”

While Project Thor itself is not a consumer service, it provides the platform for network providers to piggyback off to provide better and faster internet service to residents and businesses. Thor is a key component of the Fiber9600 broadband project in Breckenridge, which aims to bring high-speed internet and television services to residents there.

“Everyone should benefit from the higher capacity that is now available,” said Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier, who is also board chair for the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. “There are many potential benefits for our 911 center, for the hospital, where we often have outages that can be potentially life threatening.

Atencio explained that Project Thor is structured essentially like a ring with spurs that branch off it. The ring travels from Denver across Interstate 70 and Interstate 25, along fiber lines already owned and installed by the Colorado Department of Transportation, and loops around to 13 communities that have built or are building infrastructure to connect to it. 

One such spur has now branched off into Frisco and Breckenridge, giving Summit County an onramp to the regional fiber network. The network is connected through two broadband service hubs, known as Meet Me Centers, in Breckenridge and Frisco. The hub in Breckenridge was built through a partnership between the county and the town.

Aside from Summit County, other users connected to the network include Clear Creek County at Georgetown, Rio Blanco County at Meeker, Vail, Eagle, Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Yampa Valley Electric Association at Craig and Hayden, Middle Park Health at Kremmling and Granby and Northwest Colorado Broadband in Steamboat Springs.

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