Competition comes calling |

Competition comes calling

AT&T Broadband confirmed Thursday it has imminent plans to upgrade its fiber optic system and offer advanced broadband services in the Roaring Fork Valley.The development comes as the city of Glenwood Springs is nearing completion of a $3 million fiber optics backbone and wireless system, expected to be operational in July. City officials decided to install the municipally owned fiber optic backbone last summer after local AT&T Broadband manager Jim Niswender told them that while the company might install its own system as early as this year, there were no guarantees.”They flat said `We don’t have the money to upgrade,'” Glenwood Springs city manager Mike Copp said of the conversation last year.At the July 26, 2001, City Council meeting with AT&T Broadband, Niswender also warned that the city could have a tough time selling enough of its network to make a profit. He tried to persuade the city to scrap its project, Copp said.On Thursday, AT&T spokeswoman Julie Popp said the company plans to “upgrade and consolidate network equipment,” but she did not say which services would be included. The new AT&T services could duplicate many services set to be offered by the city. But they would be offered via cable wires, rather than the wireless system planned by the city. Copp said the city system has advantages over AT&T Broadband’s system because it uses both fiber optic and wireless infrastructure, is almost ready, and will be less expensive. “The advantage we have is we’re there now,” Copp said. “We still think we’ll be cheaper than most companies can do it.”The city’s plan is to provide “last-mile” service to businesses and residences, but customers will actually purchase the high-speed Internet access through local Internet service providers.At the July 2001 meeting, city leaders urged AT&T Broadband to become a partner in the project and lease fiber from the city rather than install its own, but the company declined. AT&T has some fiber optics in the area, but the company will need to increase and upgrade what’s already in the ground, Popp said.Popp said the company is “looking forward to offering advanced broadband services in Glenwood Springs, Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.”The schedule for the new services was not released, but Popp said it could happen “any time now.” The upgrades come as part of AT&T’s $1.3 billion nationwide increase in upgrade expenditures. Customers will be contacted when the service is available in their area, she said. AT&T Broadband customers will be able to access high-speed Internet via cable TV wires. The wires can be fed into a modem and then into a computer. Copp said AT&T’s plans won’t affect plans for the system being built by the city. “I don’t know what their game plan is,” Copp said. “We’re headed forward with ours.” While Copp said he’s a little surprised that AT&T Broadband is implementing its system so soon, he said he’s not concerned. “If they do, they do. That’s one of the things we always said – it’s a competitive field,” Copp said. “I think I’m a little surprised, but we did talk to them several months ago and they did give us a hint they might do this.”

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