ISPs want more fiber in Internet diet |

ISPs want more fiber in Internet diet

Pete Fowler
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Chris Dobbins would move to Glenwood Springs if fiber-optic cables could reach homes in the city.

Dobbins, general manager of the Roaring Fork Internet Users Group, and Paul Huttenhower, general manager and president of Sopris Surfers, both like the idea of Glenwood Springs installing the infrastructure for fiber optics to homes ” as long as the business plan is solid.

“The speed of light is unlimited,” said Dobbins. “I would like to move to Glenwood just to have that.”

The city is considering a $12 million business plan to add to fiber-optic lines installed in 2002 for the city’s Community Broadband Network.

The plan would use fiber optics to deliver Internet service, telephone service and cable television directly to homes. Currently, only businesses connect to the city’s fiber-optic network. Fiber-optic cables have far greater bandwidth than other technologies.

Dobbins said his office switched to fiber optics about three years ago and has taken advantage of the “blazing speeds.” He believes residential and business demand for bandwidth will increase as the years go by.

City manager Jeff Hecksel said the network costs about $2.5 million to build and has cost the city about $200,000 a year for the past three years. He didn’t want to go into detail, but said, “There were a series of decisions separate and apart from that business plan that caused the city to be in this position.”

The city hopes expanding the fiber-optic network to where it can reach every home will make the network at least break even while providing better services. Some believe it would also increase home values and bring more businesses to the city.

Dobbins said consolidating Internet, cable TV and phone service into one fiber-optic package could save users money. The fiber-optic cables could also provide competition to large companies.

Despite the potential benefits, the city will have to decide if the business plan works.

Huttenhower said, “If the numbers make sense, I think it would bring a good product to the city.”

He didn’t know the details of the business plan, but he said Hecksel has a lot of background in the area. He believes the city will make the right decision, even if that means not providing fiber optics to homes.

“There’s no telling what kind of market penetration rates they’ll get if they switch over,” Dobbins said, adding the city must decide if the business plan works.

Hecksel said the proposed business plan is based on data from other communities that built fiber-optic networks, but the city has a lot of work yet to do and must determine if that data applies to Glenwood Springs.

Both Sopris Surfers and Roaring Fork Internet Users Group partner with the city to resell Internet service. Neither is worried Glenwood Springs would try to edge them out of the market.

Sopris Surfers sells to customers within the city limits, but its business model aims more at providing wireless access to rural users. The city would probably end up competing against cable companies, Huttenhower said.

Dobbins expects the Roaring Fork Internet Users Group partnership with the city to continue if a network capable of fiber optics to homes gets installed.

“They’ll need assistance,” he said. “We’ll fit in the picture somewhere.”

Hecksel said the business plan to expand the network would segment the market. The city would probably give up its wireless customers and focus instead on providing services through fiber optics. It would focus on a footprint where there’s enough density to make it worthwhile. The footprint would roughly cover the city and stretch as far south as Aspen Glen. He said it would not be an “open-access” network, but partnership with private service providers would be possible through the fiber-optic network, and anyone who still wanted wireless service could purchase it from private ISPs.

“I don’t know what the city is going to do but over the long term I continue to see them (private ISPs) as partners,” Hecksel said.

Citizens will vote April 22 on whether the city should proceed with expanding the fiber-optic network. The vote is required by state law and doesn’t mean the city must expand the network. A second vote later, if the city still wants to pursue the project, would authorize the city to enter into debt. The fiber-optic business plan calls for debt to be repaid by user fees and not taxes. The upgrade wouldn’t begin until at least mid-2009.

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

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