High-speed Internet connections on horizon

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— Public buildings in Steamboat Springs are one step closer to receiving cheaper, high-speed Internet connections through the "beanpole project."
On Wednesday night, the Yampa Valley Economic Development Council met in Hayden and voted to accept a bid from NC Telecom Inc. to do the beanpole connections to the multi-use network in northwest Colorado as part of the beanpole project.
"I really feel like this is like the coming of the railroad to the West," said Arianthe Stettner, a member of the economic council and Steamboat City Council.
Council members agreed the acceptance of the bid topped off many years of working to bring high-speed Internet capabilities to northwest Colorado.
"This really is a red-letter day," said Marianna Raftopoulos, who also is on the economic development council and is a Moffat County commissioner.
The selling point on the deal was that NC Telecom agreed to offer upgraded Internet connections to the government buildings, schools and libraries at competitive rates before the multi-use network would be finished in northwest Colorado, said Winnie DelliQuadri, Steamboat Springs grants analyst.
Qwest, which won the state bid to build the multi-use network, has set April 30, 2002, as the date the fiber-optic backbone will be completed in northwest Colorado.
NC Telecom will install and use existing infrastructure to connect northwest Colorado to an aggregated network access point, or ANAP, in Grand Junction before 2002.
An ANAP is essentially a door to the fiber-optic lines in the ground. One will be built in all county seats through the multi-use network project. NC Telecom will use those ANAP points in the future.
Though the bid has been accepted, contract negotiations have yet to begin, and DelliQuadri wasn't sure when that would happen. She won't comment on the financial details of the bid until the contract is final.
The City of Steamboat Springs, which acts as the administrative arm of the Yampa Valley Economic Development Council, will create a committee to conduct the negotiations, DelliQuadri said.
The multi-use network is a $65 million state project passed by the Colorado State Legislature in 1996. It will connect all state offices in county seats with a fiber-optic backbone for faster Internet capabilities at a reasonable price. It was specifically targeted for rural areas without high-speed Internet access.
Legislators later recognized the need to connect more services to the fiber-optic line, as well as finding a way to make it accessible for private businesses.
In June, northwest Colorado received $1.375 million from the state as an incentive for a private company to come to the area to build and provide connections to the multi-use network for other public buildings.
The idea is that once the company exists in the area, it will be used by private businesses wanting high-speed Internet connections.
That money was dubbed "beanpole money." It will be used to subsidize the cost of installing and maintaining faster connections to the Internet through NC Telecom's infrastructure.
Council members looked at a finished $1.2 million project in Rio Blanco and Moffat counties as a quintessential piece of the beanpole puzzle. The counties buried fiber-optic lines from the Interstate 70 corridor to a Colorado State Patrol office in Craig.
But they buried more lines than what was initially needed for the troopers' office. Officials figured that the more lines in the ground, the better. Now those lines will be used by all of northwest Colorado, Raftopoulos said.
That project was completed by NC Telecom, which is why the company can offer the connections before the multi-use network is finished in northwest Colorado.
Also, it showed state officials that northwest Colorado is ahead of the game, giving incentive to grant the $1.375 million beanpole funds to this part of the state over other rural areas in Colorado.
"It opened the door to economic development," Councilwoman Kim Cook said.

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