Groundbreaking technology brings broadband access to Manassa

Courtesy photo Jade Communications Ribbon cutting ceremony with North Conejos School District students, Exec Director of DOLA Rick Garcia and Jade Communications Josh Wehe.

MANASSA, CONEJOS COUNTY -- Last week, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held in the small town of Manassa, celebrating a long awaited high-speed road (that you can’t see) and a much needed new community (on top of a community that already exists).

Put more directly, it was the celebration of this small, 900+ person community getting access to broadband, the fastest of its kind, that will take the town into the future via groundbreaking “mesh technology”.

The event was the culmination of a two-year long partnership between Alamosa’s Jade Communications and the town of Manassa. According to Jade Communications co-owner and Director of Marketing Jordan Wehe, Manassa is now “officially, the fastest city in Colorado.”

That’s quite a claim.

The initial conversation between Jade Communications and members of the Town Board of Manassa started as many other similar conversations held in rural communities. There was a serious need for broadband, but there were also very real and significant challenges in providing it to a small, rural and remote towns.

According to Wehe, Manassa has had historic struggles with technology. Those struggles were now impacting their businesses, their residents who were considering moving and students, whose lack of accessibility to technology was having a negative impact on their education. High stakes stuff.

As Megan Martinez, long-time Manassa resident and member of the Town Board, describes it, “Jade wanted to be able to supply our town with their best version of a broadband outlet. As a town board, we went back and forth with Jade for nearly two years discussing the best way to bring in a fiber optic option, but the board all agreed that burying lines wouldn’t work. We have a very old sewer and water system that runs through our town, and that made it nearly impossible for us to locate those lines at the magnitude needed to allow in-ground wiring.”

“[We] grew up here,” Jordan says, referring to himself and Jade co-owner Josh Wehe, who is the Director of Operations. “Our company believes in families, community anchors and schools and we want to promote economic development in southern Colorado. So, we just kept at it until we found the answer.”

After two years of trying to find the right solution, Jordan and Josh Wehe presented the board with that answer to their problems – a “multi-gig system” that, as Martinez puts it, could be installed without touching “a pole, street or road, ensuring no need for damage and follow-up repairs.”

The solution comes in a box “the size of a glove” installed on the roof of a house. Instead of one box sending network signals via cables to other boxes, Jade’s “mesh technology” creates its own network of broadband communication as each box communicates with the other boxes in the vicinity. “Think of a spiderweb in the sky,” says Josh. The result is a “stable, resilient, intelligent network” that continues to be operational, even if one of those boxes “takes a hit.”

The technology is revolutionary, but the capacity (that is, the speed) is what users reportedly enjoy at a rate that, according to Josh Wehe, “is 20x to 40x faster than any other type of internet in Colorado” and provides such “insane clarity” that “on a Zoom call, a person’s face just jumps out of the screen, as if you’re in the same room.”

“As a town citizen and board member I couldn’t be more pleased with this outcome,” says Martinez. “I have this multi gig system and my service has grown. I’m able to help kids with homework, have the TV streaming and do a zoom call all at once. Before this system, that wouldn’t be possible.”

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