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Community Broadband System faces competition from Comcast

Greg MassPost Independent Staff

In April 2002, officials from AT&T Broadband – which has since changed its name to Comcast – indicated that they had “imminent plans to upgrade their fiber optic system and offer advanced broadband services” in the Roaring Fork Valley. Now, more than a year later, those plans are realized. On May 1, the broadband company began offering high-speed Internet service to residents of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt. The new cable broadband service will directly compete with the Community Broadband System in Glenwood Springs, as well as Internet service providers throughout the lower valleys. But Comcast’s services are being offered via cable lines, while the city’s system is primarily brought to customers using a wireless connection. “I think it will definitely have an impact,” Sopris Surfers president Paul Huttenhower said. “It seems to me Comcast has an army right now. They’ve got trucks everywhere.”Huttenhower said Comcast is taking advantage of people’s desire to increase the speed of their Internet connections. “People are making the transition from dial-up to broadband,” he said. “They’re going to get some of the market share, but will they get all of it? And will they kill all the local (Internet service providers)? Absolutely not.”Comcast offers broadband to most areas in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, but there are some areas where it’s not yet available, Comcast spokeswoman Jeannine Hansen said.”There’s still a couple of nodes that aren’t complete. But it’ll be done by the end of June,” Hansen said.The delay between the initial announcement and the availability of the service was caused by time-consuming upgrades to the cable system, she said.”We have rebuilt our network in the whole Colorado area,” Hansen said. “We’re upgrading our cable network so it’s two-way compatible. When we upgrade the network, it works for Internet access.”Broadband service will also be offered in Rifle and New Castle as soon as cable upgrades are completed in those towns. “They should launch in mid-August,” Hansen said. “We’re still finishing the rebuild in those areas.”The company will initially offer customers broadband service for $19.95 per month, plus a one-time $49.95 installation fee. “That’s through the end of June,” Hansen said. After the six-month deal ends, prices will vary. Those who subscribe to Comcast cable television – either analog or digital – will pay $45.95 per month for broadband access if they need a cable modem or $42.95 if they already own a modem.Those who don’t buy television services from Comcast would pay $55.99 with a modem or $52.99 without it. “Any video customer would get a discount on Internet services,” Hansen said. “It’s similar to other companies that offer multiple services at a discount.”For those prices, Comcast offers 1.5 megabytes per second – which is more than 50 times faster than a 28,800 byte-per-second connection offered by dial-up Internet service providers. It’s also more than twice as fast as a 640,000 byte-per-second digital subscriber line, or DSL. “There’s been great customer interest and demand for this service – people have been eagerly waiting,” Hansen said. Contact Greg Mass: 945-8515, ext. 511gmasse@postindependent.com


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