Fiber optic lines postponed

Officials target late-fall for completion

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— NC Telecom has postponed the lighting of fiber optic lines into Steamboat by more than two months.

Expected to be done by the end of the summer, company officials have targeted late-October and early-November for when contracts and service plans will be in place to ensure fiber optics can be lit and Steamboat can receive high-speed internet access.

"The timeline has changed. We are still working on activating the high-speed data services," said Rick Henning, who is a NC Telecom Sales Engineer and Marketing Coordinator.

NC Telecom is the company that won the right to connect public buildings with high-speed fiber optics through the state-funded Beanpole Project.

But local governments have been working with the company for almost two years to sign a contract.

"It has taken a lot longer to go from point A to point B than we thought," County Commissioner Dan Ellison said.

Although current companies offer high-speed access through wireless plans and over copper telephone wires, Henning said the emergence of NC Telecom in Steamboat will be the first time DSL will be offered through fiber optics.

"High-speed DSL is the big ticket item we are bringing to town," Henning said.

Right now the two most viable options for local businesses are to use either a wireless system or to connect through a copper wire system in phone lines.

Both can provide a DSL or T-1 connection, a speed that carries the capacity of 20 to 50 single phone lines.

But, wireless connections can be interrupted by radio waves and DSL is limited by distance and does not reach areas as close as the base of Mount Werner.

NC Telecom has laid the actual fiber optics, but Henning said the delay is getting contracts and service plans in place.

NC Telecom still has to work out leasing agreements with Qwest to share space in housing equipment.

The contract should be signed within 90 days, Henning said.

Once the fiber optic lines are lit, public buildings will be the first priority, followed by businesses and then homes.

"Businesses are an integral part of the Beanpole Project to offer something back to the community as well as all the services for public institutions," Henning said.

The NC Telecom line will snake from Rifle to Meeker to Craig, and finally to Steamboat. Known as the multi-use network the state is attempting to build a roadway of fiber optic lines intended to give equal telecommunication access to every county seat in Colorado.

The Beanpole Project will provide the smaller connections to municipalities, libraries, schools and hospitals that link to the state's fiber optic backbone.

Northwest Colorado was given $1.37 million through the Beanpole Project to cover the start-up equipment and costs for the first two years of service.

The city's manager of information services Kent Morrison said that once the city has the access to NC Telecom's high-speed access, it will be a service hard to give up.

"The best thing about the Beanpole Project for all the agencies is the redundancy.

"And once you begin seeing the benefits of the connection and of doing business better than before that will cost justify keeping the connection," Morrison said.

Morrison said connection to NC Telecom's fiber optics will give the city a double redundancy, something that is key for a system that links to the fire and police department.

It will also be able to provide advance services like allowing customers to pay their water bills online, which takes a higher degree of security and around the clock access.

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