Farwell Mountain a key to Wi-Fi in Steamboat Lake area | SteamboatToday.com

Farwell Mountain a key to Wi-Fi in Steamboat Lake area

U.S. Forest Service permission for Internet Service Provider to share Routt County's antenna site on 10,860-foot peak a key to wi-fi in North Routt.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Josh Nowak, operations manager for wireless Internet provider Zirkel Wireless, confirmed Thursday that his locally-owned company is making progress toward its goal of placing an antenna on top of 10,860-foot Farwell Mountain to help connectivity-starved residents of North Routt County access Wi-Fi.

But Nowak stopped short of saying the antenna could be established in 2018. And even if it was, it wouldn't be the ultimate fix.

"Not a week goes by without us taking a half-dozen calls from people in North Routt,"  Nowak said. "We're extremely motivated to get some service up there. In order to really bolster service, we would need three more towers, or it might be closer to five."

Steamboat Today reported on the frustrations people in North Routt have with Wi-Fi connections in June 2017.

Still, he said, Farwell Mountain is critical to the overall plan, which anticipates using Farwell to feed other tower sites that Zirkel intends to build in the area.

Zirkel Wireless serves its customers through a network of antenna sites in strategic locations in Northwest Colorado. The antenna sites have wireless access points that broadcast a signal to areas that have line-of-sight to Zirkel's other towers.

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Zirkel's internet technicians install a subscriber antenna at their location, which is able to convert the wireless signal into an Ethernet connection for use with a single computer or router.

"We view Farwell as being somewhat of a linchpin to the project," Nowak said. "Farwell can see our existing tower on Moonhill. It can also see our tower up on Mount Werner."

Ironically, Farwell has a difficult time "seeing" the closer businesses and residential subdivisions around Steamboat Lake. And Zirkel's current tower on Moonhill has a difficult time seeing the residential subdivisions on Willow Creek Pass. But a new antenna atop the Steamboat Lake State Park headquarters would probably fix that.

The mountainous terrain in North Routt doesn't aid the line-of-sight connections, but sometimes, Nowak said, it's just trees that block the signal. 

"Farwell allows us to feed North Routt with some redundancy," Nowak said.

County Manager Tom Sullivan and the Board of County Commissioners expressed confidence Tuesday that the necessary permissions from the U.S. Forest Service to allow Zirkel Wireless to co-locate on the county's existing antenna site on Farwell would be in place sometime this summer. 

But Nowak was not as optimistic, observing that the permit has to go up the chain of command at the Forest Service.

He said that his company's "build season" typically ends in the middle of October, and if all the necessary contracts are in place by the middle of August, Zirkel could probably get the equipment deployed this year.

"That's probably pushing it a little," Nowak said. "I think it’s probably a 2019 build versus a 2018 build."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.