The Yampa Valley Economic Development Council has spent the past few years trying to bring high-speed Internet access to the area, but now that the project is near completion, the question is what is next for the council.
Two years after singing a contract with NC Telecom to bring the Bean Pole Project to the Yampa Valley, the economic development council is expecting to see public buildings hooked up by the end of this year. The Bean Pole Project is one of two state-funded technology initiatives that would bring high-speed Internet access to every county seat in the state and spread the connection to public buildings.
City grants analyst Winnie Delliquadri said public buildings such as those of the city and schools have already been hooked up with NC Telecom, which is leasing lines from Qwest and sharing room in the Qwest building. The library and hospital are still waiting to be connected to NC Telecom. All the public buildings are waiting to tap into the state's multiuse network.
The economic development council continues to oversee the implementation of the Bean Pole Project and for the next two to three years will disperse the $1.37 million in grants given to Northwest Colorado. But the near completion of the project has also left room for a new undertaking for a council that brings together elected officials in Routt and Moffat counties.
Both Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison and Steamboat Springs City Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner said the group first needs to breathe.
"Right now we need to regroup," Stettner said. "What do you do the day after Christmas? Kind of tidy up and catch your breath."
The next direction could be one of networking and encourage the growth of startup businesses. Earlier this month, the council met with chambers from area towns and the Steamboat Springs Economic Development Council and Moffat County's economic development director.
"This could bring a regional approach to economic development. I think each county has different resources to bring to the table," Stettner said.
The Bean Pole Project was not the first multi-county project the council took on.
It was formed more than a decade ago and was instrumental in the Yampa River Legacy Project, which is a trail system the council hopes one day will connect Craig and Steamboat.
But two years of negotiating with NC Telecom has been trying, Ellison said.
"We had a couple of meetings where we were pretty close to pounding on the table trying to get their attention," Ellison said. "But it wound up that things are going pretty well."
As NC Telecom brings fiber-optics lines to Steamboat and connects it to public buildings, it is the realization of two statewide projects that have been in the works for more than five years.
NC Telecom's fiber-optic line, which will snake from Rifle to Meeker to Craig and finally to Steamboat, is part of the state's technology backbone known as the multiuse network.
The multiuse network could be thought of as the speedy interstate roads that connect rural areas to metro hubs like Denver. But it is the Bean Pole Project that is attempting to create the smaller county roads that branch off to connect libraries, schools, hospitals and municipalities to the state's fiber-optic backbone.
Ellison said the concept is one that was used 50 or 60 years ago when telephone lines were being installed in Northwest Colorado.
NC Telecom still has to connect its fiber-optics line to Steamboat, but it has been able to connect Routt County by leasing lines from Qwest.