High-speed broadband internet is headed to Las Animas. In fact, it's already being installed.

Bill Larkin of Starfire Communications and Rob Thayer of Secom told the Las Animas City Council that Las Animas residents are about to receive a major upgrade in their internet service.

Las Animas has received a grant from The Broadband Fund, a Department of Regulatory Agencies initiative to bring 200/200 Mbps internet speeds through a fiber network to Las Animas, Springfield and Holly.

The department has provided $19.6 million in grants to 29 projects for rural areas since 2016, according to its website.

"What we're doing is, every house and business in the city limits of Las Animas is going to receive fiber optic internet," said Thayer. "It's an exciting time. It's going to be one of the fastest cities in the state of Colorado."

Larkin and Thayer already have completed construction of the fiber optic infrastructure in Holly and Springfield. Las Animas is the third phase of the project, said Thayer.

Construction is scheduled for completion by Aug. 1. A month later, Starfire Communications will start accepting beta customers onto the network. Thayer said they should be ready to start a limited deployment by Sept. 15, and they plan to have a full launch by Oct. 1.

"We'll put some beta customers on, some people that are willing to take a few bumps along the road, even though we're pretty good," said Thayer. "We've had some beta markets already ... Holly was our beta market."

Thayer said they've worked on what he called "fiber hoods", or fiber optic internet in individual neighborhoods, for the past 7-8 years.

"We started in La Junta. We have some pretty good areas up in Canon City, Pueblo, but these are the first full-blown towns, city limit to city limit. Every house passed, every business passed," said Thayer.

Thayer compared the process of getting the infrastructure in place and activating internet for individual residences to the practice of installing cable television.

"We'll have taps in the alleys. Our installers will come in; they'll be able to pull a tap. It's not a huge process," Thayer said.

"When somebody calls in wanting fiber optic service, we'll just tap into one of our taps, take it into the house ... Then they can put in a wireless router; they can put in whatever type of service they want into their house in order to connect to the service."

Thayer said the wireless service packages offered will start at 100 mb per second and cap at 500 mb per second. He said the increase in speeds will be huge.

"Right now, our wireless are tapping at half of that, even if they have our best package, which is 50 mbps."

Starfire Communications will encourage its wireless users to take advantage of the fiber optic broadband. Thayer said the more people that switch to fiber in and around Las Animas, the easier it will be to provide quality wireless services to residents in outlying, harder-to-reach areas.

Thayer anticipates that at least a few residents will opt out of fiber altogether, given his experiences previously in Holly and Springfield.

"They don't maybe understand the benefits that fiber's going to give them," said Thayer. "Once they're on fiber, it's a true, dedicated service. There's nothing faster than the speed of light that we've found so far. So it's going to be a great experience for them."

Mayor Jim Collins said that if one doesn't understand how vital internet is in today's world, just look at what happens around town when the internet does give out: one can't even pump their own gas because card readers aren't online.

cburney@ljtdmail.com