City drafts ballot question for expanding fiber-optic network
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Voters will decide in April if the city should pursue the infrastructure to provide fiber-optic connections to every home.If approved and carried out, the city would be able to offer cable television, Internet and telephone service directly to homes through fiber-optic cables.”In a nutshell, it’s telephone service, Internet service and cable TV,” city manager Jeff Hecksel said.Glenwood Springs currently provides telephone and Internet service only to businesses through fiber-optics. Those cables are part of the Glenwood Springs Municipal Broadband system installed in 2002. Vendors resell the Internet service to residential customers.Hecksel said the current system has been about $200,000 behind revenues versus expenses for the past three years.”In this case, maybe it didn’t work out the way everyone thought,” he said later, adding, “It’s better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.”He said the council that approved the current broadband network deserves credit for forging ahead and trying something new.Expanding the city’s fiber-optic network and services offered has been hailed as a move that could make the current network financially sustainable, provide better services to consumers and bring in more businesses seeking to take advantage of the fiber-optic infrastructure.The City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance Thursday that will send the fiber-optic question to voters on April 22.Hecksel said, “What it really comes down to is this is the construction or contemplation of a fiber to the user network, and the value of fiber is in the capacity.”But the vote would only be an advisory vote. It’s required under state law and would not mandate that the city must proceed, Hecksel said.He said it’s important to note that the $12 million cost to upgrade the system would be repaid by user fees and not taxes. A second vote would also be required later for voters to authorize the city to actually enter into the debt, Hecksel said. He said that if all the approvals fall in to place, a great deal of work must still be done and work to upgrade the system would not begin until at least mid-2009.”We’ve sunk $3 to $5 million in capitol costs into this system and it’s a great start on something that was never really built out to its full capacity,” Councilor Russ Arensman said. “This is a great opportunity to make better use of something we’ve already got in place.”Councilor Shelley Kaup said there’s an important opportunity to expand the current network and its services to where it can be sustainable.Councilor Dave Merritt said he’s concerned about the $12 million debt, but would support the motion. Others agreed the business plan must be carefully scrutinized if expansion of the network and services moves ahead.”The system that we have in place has phenomenal opportunity to change our community for decades to come,” said Mayor Bruce Christensen.Contact Pete Fowler: email@example.com
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