Glenwood applies for Google broadband | PostIndependent.com

Glenwood applies for Google broadband

John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Glenwood Springs is among the many communities across the United States hoping to be selected to participate in an ultra high-speed broadband network installation project presented by Internet search engine Google.

“It’s a way to build on the current system and take a giant leap forward in terms of the access to data in Glenwood,” said Glenwood Springs Mayor Bruce Christensen.

Google announced plans for the Gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home broadband research project in February. According to Google’s website, the company plans to test an ultra-high speed broadband network in one or more trial locations across the United States. The company claims that the trial system would bring Internet access to residents through fiber optic connections at 1 gigabit per second speeds that are estimated at 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to currently.

Google says that it will offer service at a competitive price and estimates that the trial project will reach between 50,000 and 500,000 residents, most likely in multiple communities nationwide.

Google put out a Request for Information (RFI) to municipalities to determine which will be selected in the trial project. The deadline for applications is Thursday, March 26. The RFI is only the first step in the process, but Google plans to announce a target community sometime this year, and Christensen thinks that Glenwood is a perfect candidate for the project.

“We think we offer some items that really make Glenwood a great site for the project and are hoping that they look at our application and choose to follow up more closely,” Christensen said.

Christensen said that some of the key reasons that Glenwood, in his opinion, has a good chance of being selected is because the city already has a fiber-optic “backbone” in place. The city owns its own electric company and retains the right of way and conduit needed to install the new system, and the fact that Glenwood has the legal authority to install and expand a fiber-optic network.

“We are way ahead of other towns in Colorado,” Christensen said.

Installation costs for this type of project were not apparent, but Christensen was hoping that Google would provide some assistance.

“We are hoping that Google is going to fund the installation of the system in the communities, which is one of the reasons I’m so strongly supporting this,” he said.

As for service cost, the company says that a final price has not yet been determined, but the company intends to offer service at a competitive price. The company has yet to set a launch date for the network.

Glenwood Springs currently has a fiber-optic Community Broadband Network, which was installed in 2002, that delivers 100 megabits per second speeds. The network provides Internet service to businesses through the Glenwood Springs Community Broadband Network, and also provides infrastructure for other local Internet Service Providers – Skybeam Internet and ROF.net – to provide service to residences.

Voters OK’d the city to pursue expanding the network in April 2008. The plan considered at the time was estimated to cost between $10-$12 million for the expansion, which was to be repaid through user fees. However, another vote was required to authorize the city to enter into the $12 million bond issue to pay for the expansion.

According to City Manager Jeff Hecksel, the community broadband network currently loses about $200,000 per year because the costs involved are greater than the revenues. However, Hecksel said that the amount will fluctuate from year to year.

“I think we have made some strides to reduce costs and boost revenues,” Hecksel said.

Christensen said that there was a great deal of support in 2008 from the community to expand the network. He said that he met with both Qwest and Comcast in 2008 on partnering on the expansion. Neither company was interested, he said.

Concurrently, the economy tanked and “It didn’t seem like a good time to expand,” Christensen said. So the expansion was never pursued.

But this new project would be a perfect place to pick up the project.

“The plan was for the city to install a fiber network that would help prepare Glenwood for the future of Internet operations,” Christensen said. “All of the uses of the Internet are becoming more and more popular and require more bandwidth, and the fiber allows that.”

jgardner@postindependent.com


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