Network will benefit rural areas

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— Private businesses and residents in and around Steamboat Springs will have access to state-of-the-art telecommunications at an affordable price, including a high-speed Internet connection, if negotiations between the City of Steamboat Springs and NC Telecom are successful.
"They would have the same opportunities as we have in the public sector," Yampa Valley Economic Council member Marianna Raftopoulos said.
NC Telecom won the right to provide connections to the multi-use network for public buildings in what was called the beanpole project. The economic council chose the company over AT&T and Qwest Wednesday night at a meeting in Hayden. The City of Steamboat Springs acts as the administrative arm for the council and will finalize negotiations on the contract.
Once infrastructure is in place for libraries, health centers and schools, which will be subsidized by the state beanpole grant, NC Telecom will be able to offer the same services to the private sector.
"It's really going to depend on how the loops are built in town," NC Telecom spokesman Dennie Mecham said. "We're going to do our very best to serve as many people as we possibly can."
Since the private connections will be dependent on the infrastructure used by the public buildings, private businesses and homes that aren't close to those lines initially may be left out of the loop.
However, once a fiber-optic backbone, which state legislatures approved to bury in rural areas to service government agencies, comes through Craig and Steamboat Springs, more options will be available, Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison said. That line is called the multi-use network.
In anticipation for a future need of broad-band telecommunications capabilities, Qwest laid fiber-optic lines through many parts of Routt County, Ellison said. But much of it is under-utilized because lines going out of Steamboat can't handle broad-band connections.
"You're getting basic deployment of high-speed lines so that outlying areas have an opportunity to compete," he said.
There is a fiber-optic line going up Elk River Road to Steamboat Lake, near County Road 36 in the Strawberry Park area and through south Routt, including Stagecoach and Oak Creek, he said.
Once the multi-use network comes through Steamboat, the potential of the fiber-optic lines could be reached, he said.
Connecting rural areas with state-of-the-art telecommunications is essentially connecting the area with a locally untapped economic source, ITT Technical Institute professor Hugh Mosley said.
"It's enormous. Most of our economy (in Denver) is built with information technology," he said.
Having access to better telecommunications will make rural areas a potential home for companies that depend on the technology. That means more jobs and more money coming into the region. Also, it could improve revenues for businesses that are already here.
"If you have a company in a rural area, it opens up the connection with customers and suppliers," Mosley said.
Companies could connect with more customers from around the state and around the country, he said.
Though negotiations haven't started with NC Telecom to finalize the deal, the company has said it will provide the service before the multi-use network arrives in northwest Colorado in 2002.

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

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