Glenwood, local ISPs on same wavelength over broadband deal |

Glenwood, local ISPs on same wavelength over broadband deal

Leaving a rocky year of accusations and wrangling behind them, the city of Glenwood Springs and a group of local Internet service providers on Monday forged what both sides hope is a lasting and amicable partnership. The Glenwood Springs City Council agreed to draw up a contract to allow local Internet service providers to use the city’s Community Broadband System to connect city residents to the Internet. “There’s been some hard feelings in the past, but that’s in the past, so let’s go forward,” Mayor Don Vanderhoof said. The agreement, which could become official at City Council’s Dec. 5 meeting, means wireless high-speed Internet service testing will begin in the city within weeks. It is expected that users will be charged around $50 per month for residential high-speed Internet – or broadband – service.The $50 pricetag comes partly as a reaction to looming competition from AT&T Broadband. “We understand AT&T is in the area and they’re starting their test runs,” city manager Mike Copp said. Spurred on by an impending Internet service and consulting agreement between the city and the Aspen-based ISP AspenWorks, four local Internet companies, calling themselves the Glenwood last Thursday and made an offer the city couldn’t refuse.City employees returned with a counter-offer Monday, making modest changes.A memorandum written by assistant city attorney Karl Hanlon says the city must retain control of the system, but made other concessions.Negotiations also yielded a great deal for Internet customers.The ISPs – Sopris Surfers, Desktop Solutions, Crimson Wireless and RoFIntUG – said they would install equipment for customers at no charge, and use those customers as test accounts to get the system working smoothly.And the city agreed to purchase the wireless access hardware – which costs $400 to $500 per customer – needed to connect onto the system.Although the equipment purchases will come at a substantial up-front cost to the city, computer network engineer Jim Drolet said it’s the price they must pay to convince residents and businesses to use the system. He predicted the investment will be paid back in the long run. The city also agreed to lower the monthly residential rate charged to ISPs to $5 a month per customer for the next 120 days. This vastly reduced rate, however, comes at a cost to Internet service providers that participate. At the end of the testing period, the ISPs must open their books and share all pertinent financial data with the city. This will help the city come up with a realistic, long-term price model for the system. “We would treat that information much like we’d treat sales tax information: strictly confidential,” Hanlon said. If an ISP doesn’t want to do this, it can pay the city $20 a month per customer, starting now, and keep all the information to itself. Another concession made by the city at Monday’s meeting would allow three ISPs to connect to the city’s system at one connection point and share that connection fee. “From a business and financial standpoint, the city has made enormous concessions during this meeting,” said Bruce Munroe, the city’s information systems director. Hanlon’s memo also calls for the city to deal with each ISP on an individual basis, not as a consortium. This, he explained, avoids any legal action against the city or consortium for engaging in unfair trade practices. Also, as the two sides try to keep the competition fair for all companies involved, a list of potential customers will be provided to all ISPs who sign a contract with the city. The list will be updated weekly and sent to each ISP via e-mail. “I think we have come to a general agreement to most of these points,” said Bob McNutt, president of Desktop Consulting and spokesman for the consortium. “I never dreamed we could get this far today.”Also at the meeting, Hanlon all but promised that the city would refrain from becoming its own ISP and competing with private companies. Hanlon said the city would never become an ISP “as long as someone else is providing service to our citizens.”Springs Information Technology Consortium, approached council

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