Lodges getting high-speed links

Faster Internet service will soon be offered

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— Regular, high-speed Internet access has found its way to the Yampa Valley but at this point, the service is for visitors, not residents.

Steamboat Lodging Inc., a property group made up of the Best Western Ptarmigan Inn, Sky Valley Lodge, the Alpiner Lodge and the Steamboat Log Cabins at Perry-Mansfield, is introducing super-speed access to cyberspace for overnight patrons.

"We want to become a favorite among business travelers, so we decided to go further than just providing dataports," said Mike Lomas, general manager of Steamboat Lodging and the Best Western Ptarmigan Inn. "With both wired and wireless Internet access, we can cater to guests who want to check e-mail from their rooms, the lobby or by the pool."

With help from Remote Executive Office (REO) Inc., based in Greeley, Steamboat Lodging Inc. is giving its guests the ability to browse the Internet, receive e-mail and access corporate networks at speeds much faster than regular modem connections.

"We're targeting business clients," Sky Valley Lodge co-manager John Hartman said. "Until now, it's probably just been that nobody wanted to spend the money to do this."

Hartman said that bringing high speed Internet access to the valley is expensive, but that REO Inc. is making it happen.

Services will cost guests $9.95 a day if they bring a laptop, and $17.95 day if they need to use a resort terminal, said Larry Johnson, REO Inc.'s vice president of sales and marketing.

Beth Ziesenis at Steamboat Lodging Inc. said this is the first real step Steamboat has taken to get high-speed Internet access in the valley.

However, Stephanie Reineke a principle in local Internet service provider SpringSips, said she's been working for at least six months to do the same.

"Is it the first step anyone here's taken? No, it's not," Reineke said. "This first (Steamboat Lodging Inc.) step has nothing to do with residents. It's not geared toward locals. I'm looking for a long-term solution that will affect the community as a whole, not just guests."

Reineke said that her optimistic goal is to have the access here for residents by this fall.

REO Inc. also sees fall as the time when it will bring high-speed Internet access to local businesses, and company officials hope to provide access to residents someday.

"Bringing the services to residents is a long way off," Johnson said.

Costs for business and residential Internet service are expected to be less than the per-day rates for guests.

"It will be an entirely different pricing structure, more like a monthly telephone or cable service bill," Johnson said, adding that a range of $20 to $30 per month is what his company is envisioning.

U S West now Qwest has told Steamboat Springs that it will bring fiber optics up valley from Craig possibly by this fall, but that it won't actually be doing anything with the lines for about two years, Johnson said.

"U S West recently told us that instead of 32 months to get things going, they're now asking for 36 months," Reineke said. "They're just procrastinating, basically. If they really wanted to do it here, now, they could."

The window is giving companies like SpringSips and REO an opportunity to set up high-speed Internet access before Qwest.

Reineke said SpringSips is trying to make it available before Qwest does, and to do so with better customer service. SpringSips is researching its technological options, including satellites, microwave and terrestrial lines to get the service here.

REO Inc. is relying solely upon satellites.

"Right now customers have to dial into a terrestrial line," Johnson said. "You need a modem; not with satellite. There's no dialing, no wait, no busy signals, no sudden cutoffs."

Satellite service provides access that is 15 to 150 times faster than a 56K modem, Johnson said.

Johnson said he can't see any advantage to pursuing options other than satellite for providing high-speed Internet access.

"We're not relying on the phone company at all," Johnson said.

However, local Internet service provider Colorado Mountain Net does see an option other than satellite. The company is offering a digital subscriber line, or DSL, for between $59 and $350 per month. DSL connections are 2 to 24 times faster than 56K modem hookups, said Chris Craft, office manager at Colorado Mountain Net.

REO Inc., which specializes in providing high-speed Internet access in resort communities, contacted several groups in Steamboat Springs some months ago.

"Steamboat Lodging was the first to respond, although we're going to be signing contracts with some other property management groups real soon here," Johnson said.

Initially REO Inc. never intended to provide additional service to businesses or residents, but the company has received so many phone calls and requests that it is trying to make it happen, too.

High-speed access will be available at the Ptarmigan Inn by the week of July 17; access in the Alpiner will follow soon after, Johnson said. Access won't be available at the Sky Valley Lodge until just after the first of the year.

To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or e-mail bnadzam@amigo.net

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