Glenwood Chamber urges yes vote on city broadband initiative |

Glenwood Chamber urges yes vote on city broadband initiative

Marianne Virgili
President and CEO of The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association
Glenwood Springs, Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Back in 2001, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association hosted an all-day seminar about a relatively new technology called fiber optics. People weren’t quite sure what fiber optics meant. But one thing was for sure: citizens knew it was difficult to get cell phone service in Glenwood Springs. In fact, mobile service was spotty throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, and dial-up Internet was the only reasonably-priced option for homes and small businesses.

As we listened to statewide experts talk about the “pop” needed to provide the fiber infrastructure need to secure our telecommunications future, one thing became apparent. Corporate communication companies were putting their money where the population was, and rural American cities like Glenwood were not on their radar screen.

Then-U.S. Representative Scott McInnis spoke eloquently that if we wanted new technology, we had better provide it for ourselves. He advised the city to install fiber optics as a public utility, just like the electric department. Mayor Sam Skramstad pledged to do just that, and six months later, the city began a long-term plan for broadband that was heralded across the Western United States.

In 2002, the city of Glenwood Springs began installing a redundant loop fiber optic network throughout the city. This brought Glenwood Springs the capability of true broadband communications, including IP telephony, high-speed Internet access, e-mail and web hosting services. The expansion of the network to offer Video on Demand and cable television services is now being proposed to the citizens of Glenwood Springs through a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) solution.

Voters will be asked in a mail ballot election April 22 whether the city should pursue expanding the network. Another vote would be required later to give the city permission to actually go into debt.

At its March meeting, the board of directors of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association voted unanimously to support the city’s current broadband initiative. The board’s position is that they believe the expansion could make the current network financially sustainable, provide better services to consumers and encourage more businesses to locate in the city.

The board’s decision was also influenced by a recent survey of chamber members, which revealed business support of the city’s plan to extend fiber optics infrastructure to all Glenwood residences.

Of the 127 responding to the survey, 92 percent use broadband; 64 percent would like greater bandwidth; 74 percent would support city issuing bonds to extend fiber city-wide; 67 percent support city using its fiber network to provide competitive services; and 86 percent would purchase competitive Internet from city.

In 2002, Glenwood Springs became one of less than two dozen communities in the country to provide its own fiber infrastructure. Broadband communications companies sprang up, dial-up became a dinosaur, and several businesses moved operations to Glenwood Springs because telecommunications were critical to them. Now we can’t imagine Glenwood Springs without fiber optics.

It is difficult to anticipate what the communications needs will be in the years ahead. Vote YES by mailing your ballot before April 22 so that Glenwood Springs remains a community that prides itself on providing the amenities citizens deserve.

Ballots should be returned to City Hall, 101 W. Eighth Street, Suite 325 by 7 p.m. April 22 (Election Day). On Election Day, City Hall will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. The deadline securing for absentee ballot applications is Friday, April 18.

Marianne Virgili is president and CEO of The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association

This column appeared in Inside Business, which runs every Tuesday in the Post Independent

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