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Rural residents say unreliable internet impacting business, academics

Creative Commons/Flickr/photosteve101

Residents frustrated with slow internet speeds in Old Snowmass showed up to a Pitkin County Commissioner’s meeting Wednesday. 

Katie Murch is co-director at the Aspen Camp of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Old Snowmass. Through an interpreter, she told commissioners slow internet makes the organization look unprofessional. An online service that video streams her signing barely works.

Intepreter Kyle Larson: "Because of the internet service it’s blurry, it freezes. A one minute conversation can take ten minutes because of the internet service and it looks bad."

Elise Wright also lives in Old Snowmass. She’s taking college courses online.

"I have had incredible difficulty uploading these assignments," she says. "I have to turn these things in via the internet and that has proven extremely challenging, to the extent that I have a failing grade in one of my classes."

State law and a lack of money is holding Pitkin County back from becoming an internet service provider. Instead, the county wants a public-private partnership. They’re examining ideas like offering subsidies to private internet carriers. Providing broadband internet service in rural, unpopulated areas is not a money-maker for private companies. Jon Peacock is County Manager.

"What we’re trying to do is see if there’s a role we can play so that those companies that do provide internet and cellular service can provide them to the rural areas in an affordable and effective way," he says. "We’re still learning how to do that."

The County’s launching a survey Tuesday, asking residents in rural places like Marble, Old Snowmass and the Frying Pan, what their internet needs are.

But, those in Old Snowmass say the government process is taking too long. One resident says he’ll try and get the infrastructure to improve internet service without the county.