'Beanpole' choice delayed 3 months

Decision-makers need more time for review


The decision on which vendor will provide connections to a state-funded fiber optic line in Routt County has been delayed to allow local decision-makers to do more homework.

AT&T, NC Telecom and Qwest (formally US West) have given proposals to the Yampa Valley Economic Development Council. The council hoped to choose one of the companies by the end of July, but the sophisticated details of each proposal warranted an extension of the decision date to sometime in late September or early October, Steamboat Springs grants analyst Winnie DelliQuadri said.

"When we got the proposals, we realized we had to slow down the review process," she said.

Over the next two months, the proposals will be looked at by the review committee, which includes government officials from Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

Schools, medical centers, libraries and city offices that will benefit from the deal still must determine what type of service they need. Some may require a broad-band fiber connection while others may benefit better from wireless connections.

The overall local cost of the project will not be known until those decisions are made, DelliQuadri said.

Each company's proposal has its own strategy on how it will connect all the agencies to the fiber optic, multiuse network that will wind its way through Steamboat Springs in the next couple years. The council will have to decide which proposal's connection plan will best suit the needs of the area, DelliQuadri said.

The multiuse network is a $65 million state project, approved by the Legislature in 1996, that will connect all state offices in rural areas with a fiber optic backbone. The project is designed to provide faster Internet capabilities at a reasonable price.

Recognizing the importance of having access to high-speed Internet pipes, state officials put aside $5 million for what was labeled the "Beanpole Fund." That money was to be earmarked for pay for local agencies to connect to the fiber line.

In June, northwest Colorado received $1.375 million of the beanpole money as an incentive for a private company to come to the area to build and provide connections to the multiuse network.

One of the reasons northwest Colorado received such a generous portion of the beanpole funds, over four other regions that also received some funding, was because fiber optic lines already are in the ground in this area.

Rio Blanco and Moffat counties spent $1.2 million to bury fiber optic lines from the I-70 corridor to a Colorado State Patrol office in Craig.

Those lines are well above the high-speed Internet needs of the office, but officials in those counties decided it would be worth it to put more fiber in the ground for future use.

"That showed that we have an incentive," DelliQuadri said.

The multiuse network is expected to be built through Steamboat Springs between April 2001 and April 2002. Beanpole connections can be built simultaneously with the multiuse network's construction.

Ideally, once the switch is flipped for the multiuse network, all the connections will be up and ready, DelliQuadri said.

It will mean larger amounts of information can be passed over the Internet to and from northwest Colorado.

"Better bandwidth at a lower cost," summed up Steamboat Springs School District technology director Cathleen Totten said.

The school district already has some broad-band Internet capabilities, but the multiuse network will allow the district to enhance its Internet opportunities for students without spending a lot of money.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net


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