Thursday, February 1, 2001
Steamboat Springs Pharmacist Dave Bonfiglio had been waiting for this day for years. On Thursday, his customers in Hayden were able to call his drugstore in Oak Creek and it was a local call. For the first time, those calls didn't add to the bill he pays each month for an expensive toll-free line.
"I got a call from a woman in Hayden today and she was ecstatic," Bonfiglio said. "She didn't have to pay for it, and she didn't have to feel bad about me paying for it."
Thursday was the first day that a change mandated a year ago of Qwest Communications by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission went into effect. The change expands the local calling area in Northwest Colorado and eliminates long-distance charges for calls between local cities.
Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison, who has worked toward the change for two years, said the affected calls are between Steamboat Springs and Craig, Oak Creek and Yampa to Craig (as well as in the other direction) and Oak Creek and Yampa to Hayden.
Ellison credited Bonfiglio with writing a letter that helped to persuade the PUC.
Bonfiglio, who owns and operates Bonfiglio Drug and Soda Bar, said the impact of the new toll-free calls affects more than just local business people.
"It makes a big difference to people who have family and friends" in the other towns, Bonfiglio said. No longer will aunts and uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces need to make long-distance calls from Craig to Yampa to stay in touch.
The change also affects the ranching community, which is spread out across both Routt and Moffat counties, he said. Some ranchers need to call equipment dealers and feed dealers in the other towns, Bonfiglio said.
Local calling reduces their costs.
Ellison said the initiative that brought about the change came from Ron Spangler of Twentymile Coal Co., who contacted him and pointed out 60 percent of his coal miners live in Craig but work in Routt County. They had to dial long-distance to call their boss from home or to call home during a break from work.
US West (now Qwest) sent representatives to Steamboat and met with local leaders to discuss the request.