Telecom on the Western Slope

Telecom on the Western Slope

Southwest Colorado continues to grow economically, with increasing population and greater opportunities for the regional business communities. In order to sustain that growth, the businesses and residents will need the same broadband capacity that is available on the Front Range and in other major metropolitan areas around the country. Tri-State has been and will continue to be a major partner in providing and maintaining that 21st Century telecommunications network.

In the late 1990’s, Tri-State partnered with a company called PathNet to install on the utility’s transmission system a large-count fiber optic cable from Grand Junction, Colorado, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, with connections to Colorado communities along the route such as Montrose, Nucla, Cahone, Cortez and Durango. Tri-State acquired 100 percent ownership of the cable in 2002 and now owns and maintains the underlying fiber network that supports Tri- State’s internal power operations systems. These systems regulate power supplies and flows on the company’s transmission infrastructure and prevent catastrophic failures in the event of an outage or damage to the network. Tri-State’s member cooperatives in the region — Delta Montrose Electric, Empire Electric, La Plata Electric and San Miguel Power — also depend on Tri-State’s fiber optic network for their internal power operations systems, which provide greater reliability, affordability, performance and security for the distribution of power to local communities. 

Due to the large number of fiber strands on the fiber optic cable, Tri-State is able to license the use of “spare” strands to many of the region’s larger telecom companies. These companies use the fiber strands to support fundamental communications services to residential and general business customers — including voice, data, Internet and cable television — and to support the critical needs (including 911 service) of local government and of fire, police, sheriffs, state patrol, medical facilities and other emergency services providers in the region. Without the Tri-State fiber optic cable system, the communities of southwestern Colorado could “go digitally dark” and lose much of their critical and essential communication services.

In order to deliver reliable, affordable electricity to more than one million people across four states, Tri-State manages a 5,600-mile network of transmission lines. This infrastructure, which in certain locations doubles as the vehicle for carrying fiber optic telecommunications services, is operated and maintained by dedicated telecom maintenance employees at Tri-State. These technicians, engineers and network operations employees are highly trained and must keep the communications systems operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Tri-State employees are proud of the extremely low fiber outage rates over the past 10 plus years, and they continue to train and improve process every year to ensure reliable and affordable communications services are delivered to communities at the end of the line.