Oak Creek Five years ago, Alan Belvo and his friend Sean Haskett got sick of waiting for their slow dial-up Internet connection and began researching what they could do about it.
To remedy their frustrations with their outdated Internet connection, they started their own company.
Now, Belvo and Haskett are expanding the high-speed Internet business, ZIRKEL Wireless, to reach as far as Yampa.
"The idea for us is to get as many people out here in (South Routt) hooked up with high-speed as possible," Belvo said.
ZIRKEL Wireless this month installed three new antenna sites in the county, two of which are in South Routt.
Belvo said one of the ant--enna sites is on the historic Oak Creek water tower. Another site is about 30 miles away on a hillside outside of Phippsburg.
By adding the new sites, Belvo said he has been able to "bridge the digital divide by bringing South Routt residents and businesses affordable high-speed Internet."
Belvo said he started working with the Oak Creek Town Board in the summer to determine whether the town would support ZIRKEL Wireless' South Routt endeavors. The Town Board agreed that residents throughout South Routt County could benefit from the service and decided to approve a contract allowing the men to use the water tower for their equipment.
With winter fast approa--ch--ing, Belvo said his company worked to install the Internet antenna sites and wireless equipment to get service to Oak Creek as soon as possible.
ZIRKEL Wireless' added its first Oak Creek customer Jan. 4. Since then, Belvo said he has installed a dozen more Internet connections for residents in Oak Creek and Phippsburg.
"Our discussions (with residents) have confirmed our belief that high-speed Internet access is no longer a luxury," Belvo said.
Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman said she has heard widespread praise for ZIRKEL Wireless' presence in town since the men put their equipment on the tower.
"Everyone is ecstatic. I think it's cool they've included Yampa and Phippsburg in on it," she said.
As soon as the town's con--t--r--act expires with its current Internet provider, Oak Creek will switch to ZIRKEL Wireless.
Belvo said his own frustration with dial-up Internet, cable Internet and DSL were contributing factors that led to the birth of ZIRKEL Wireless.
"People in Oak Creek have been asking for it, and now they have it," he said.
Belvo said residents who have a direct line-of-sight to the town's water tower are perfect candidates for the ZIRKEL Wireless system, but residents whose views might be slightly obstructed still can receive the service.
Belvo said the Internet signals bounce from the Steamboat antennas to the antennas in Oak Creek and Phippsburg and are then relayed from the water tower antenna to a residence.
Belvo said interested residents must purchase and install equipment, which usually inc--ludes a satellite dish or other receiver.
Belvo, Haskett and ZIRKEL Wireless employee Eric Panebaker do all of their own installation, which is why they have no office in Steamboat. Instead, the men work from their home offices.
Belvo said basic Internet plans start at about $26 a month, though the most popular plan costs $46 a month because of the quick connection speed.
As the snow begins to melt from their antenna sites in the coming months, Belvo plans to expand service to Stagecoach.
"The main thing about getting high-speed Internet is that by having it, you're able to connect to e-commerce. You can make purchases online that you normally would have to drive to Denver for. You're saving time and gas. Plus, you can stay in tune with the rest of the world," he said.