Telecommunications company Emery Telcom Chief Executive Officer Brock Johansen gave a presentation to the Grand County Council at its Aug. 4 meeting, outlining the company’s projects in Grand and San Juan counties.

Emery Telcom is in the process of bringing fiber to Castle Valley and has secured a million-dollar grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to improve rural connectivity to help fund the project. The grant will pay for 80% of installation costs within the first year, so Johansen urged Castle Valley residents who want to sign up for the service to do so sooner rather than later.

The company also has another USDA grant to extend service in the towns of Old La Sal and New La Sal in northern San Juan County as well as a Federal Communications Commission grant to bring fiber to Bluff, Montezuma Creek, and Mexican Hat in southern San Juan County. Overall Johansen reported that the company has about $25 million in projects in various stages, from funded to under construction, in southeast Utah.

“We’re trying to leverage all the federal programs to build out this area because it is so under-served,” Johansen said.

Emery Telcom would also like to leverage funding available at the state level through the Utah Universal Service Fund. However, applicants for that funding are required to be a “certificated telephone company” in the area they propose to develop, which Emery Telcom currently is not. Emery Telcom’s subsidiaries have applied to the Federal Communications Commission for that status, which would put them in competition with Frontier, the current certified telephone company.

The request is complicated. Both companies can be certificated in the area, but only one may apply for Universal Service funding to build out an area.

Johansen said Emery Telcom’s only request of the council and the community was that they inform the Office of Consumer Services in Salt Lake City if they are satisfied with their internet service, regardless of whether they use Emery Telcom or Frontier.

“If you have an opinion, you can contact the Office of Consumer Services and let them know, good or bad,” he said.

Emery Telecom expands in Castle Valley