Are you watching Pitkin County’s free television service?
The Pitkin County Telecommunications Department is reviewing how it uses money from a property tax that funds free over-the-air TV in our region. Please share if you're watching TV on this county operated platform available in the Roaring Fork, Crystal, and Frying Pan Valleys by simply using a TV antenna. The service includes channels like PBS, all the major networks, Grassroots TV, and CGTV. Call the translator line at (970) 920-5395 or email email@example.com to let us know you're watching.
Q&A with Pitkin County Telecommunications
What does the Pitkin County Telecommunications department do?
Telecommunications, also known as Translator, plans, builds and maintains the tower and fiber infrastructure in the county. This system provides over-the-air TV, FM Radio, Public Safety Radio, and Broadband services to residents in the Roaring Fork, Crystal, and Frying Pan valleys.
Is it common for a county to operate a telecommunications department? Why does Pitkin County have such a department?
No, it is not common for a county to operate a telecommunications system especially working in conjunction with area radio stations and internet providers. Pitkin County residents voted in 1995 for a property tax that would fund continued operations of the towers and to bring broadband infrastructure to the county. The bulk of this work has been performed in the last 8 years as the current team has overhauled the entire network of towers and begun running fiber up the Roaring Fork Valley to provide the beginning of higher speed internet access to more residents.
How many towers are there in the county and what services do they provide?
There are 13 towers and multiple broadband junctions around the county. Included is a mainstay tower in Garfield County on Sunlight Peak that is a major hub for TV out of Grand Junction and the important Public Safety network link. The services are mixed on each tower according to power availability and need. TV, FM, Broadband, and Public Safety Radio are mixed into the different locations.
When and where was the first tower installed?
Pitkin County took over the tower system in 1980 that was originally built by the TV Translator Association in the 1960s. Many of the towers were in awful shape but Pitkin County was not able to invest in the infrastructure until the property tax was voted on in 1995. In 2015, Pitkin County hired electrical engineers to run the Translator department and the towers were completely rebuilt with 21st century technology and proper weather appropriate and pest resistant buildings.
Surprisingly, the first tower was at Ruedi (then called Red Hill) in Eagle County. It was connected to the Sunlight Tower that was then owned by Garfield County before Pitkin County took it over. The remaining tower system grew from these locations.
How long have you been in the telecommunications department?
I have been with the Telecommunications department since November, 2018. Our department manager, Jeff Krueger, has been here since July, 2015. Jeff ushered in the new era of Telecommunications when he was hired. He has hired a highly talented crew to help him.
Why is telecommunications important to people who live and visit the Valley?
The telecommunications system Pitkin County has developed and maintained is unique in that it provides services to everyone possible. Over the air, TV serves many outlying areas of the county. For some, it’s the only connection to the rest of the world. FM services are consolidated into fewer towers that, in turn, cut down on radio stations building a multitude of ugly towers across the mountain tops of the region. Broadband services are being brought to more people with the help of Pitkin County’s efforts to build the initial lines and turn them over to internet service providers to bring broadband to homes. Public Safety Radio is the most important user group on the system. It was discovered during the Lake Christine Fire that Public Safety Radio coverage up the Frying Pan and Crystal River Valleys was not reliable. Telecommunications has fixed the problem in the Frying Pan Valley but is still working on Crystal River Valley coverage.