Nunn Telephone Company uses federal grant money to bring high-speed internet to Northern Colorado


NUNN, Colo. — In small towns like Nunn, Colorado, life tends to move at a slower pace.

It’s how they prefer it, with some exceptions.

“No one likes slow internet,” said Adam Rislov, assistant general manager of the Nunn Telephone Company. “We needed to go bigger, and fiber was the answer.”

And boy, did Nunn go big.

“We’re running a gig to every house,” Rislov said. “If that’s what they want.”

Back in 2010, Nunn’s internet service was like most small towns.

“I was horribly concerned,” said Gregory Grablander, general manager of the Nunn Telephone Company. “I didn’t know how we were ever going to get super good service. We’ve got places where it’s a mile or two between houses.”

Then, Grablander saw an opportunity — a grant program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“I really didn’t know whether that application would get any traction or not,” Grablander said. “It was about $25,000 just to apply. I think we got awarded the first, we may have been the first in the whole United States.

Grablander and his colleagues were ecstatic.

“Felt like that would be what it would be like to totally hit a baseball out of the baseball park,” he said. “Just watch it go.”

Nunn was awarded $5.2 million. Seventy-five percent was a grant and the other 25% was a loan with 2% interest.

“By 2016, we were all fiber to the home,” Rislov said. “If you’re coming from Denver or Fort Collins, to be honest with you, I think we have a better service.”

“One hundred milliseconds is acceptable,” Grablander said. “We’re at about 7 milliseconds. I’m not sure what would happen in Denver, but I don’t know if they can beat seven.”

Nunn is now written about as a national standard bearer for the kind of internet speed small towns can achieve. It’s a big deal considering most kids had to learn remotely last year, sometimes in small towns where service was terrible.

Those living in metro Denver and other large cities might find it hard to live without high-speed internet. Yet, for millions of Americans in rural areas, living without reliable internet access is a daily reality.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday the agency’s intent to invest millions more in rural broadband expansion. It’s part of the newly-passed Infrastructure and Jobs Act. About $167 million in broadband for rural communities suffering from painfully slow internet service.

“We found a way to get everyone service,” Grablander said.

The Nunn Telephone Company’s service area is enormous, about 560 square miles in Northern Colorado all the way to the Wyoming border.

“Everyone who wants fiber in that area can get it,” Rislov said. “Everything is underground in conduit protected from the weather and rodents.”

“We buried it 6 feet under rather than 4 feet,” Grablander said. “This seemed better for everybody if we paid them to go 6 feet deep as opposed to 4 feet deep. It cost us a little bit more to go two more feet deep, but it’s been a huge benefit for us. The benefit to the community of fiber has been huge.”

“As far as streaming goes, I don’t know if you could get a better system for streaming,” Rislov said. “We have ranchers, farmers that just appreciate the slow pace of life.”

“But not their internet?” Denver7’s Russell Haythorn asked. “Not the internet,” Rislov said.