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Strike up the broadband, wiring almost done

Greg Mass

Final testing is under way for the Glenwood Springs wireless broadband system, and a party is planned to celebrate what’s being touted as one of the most progressive municipal fiber optics systems in the country.Meanwhile, an AT&T Broadband cable upgrade – which will include high-speed Internet capabilities – is on the way, but it will be months before the improved service gets to customers, the company’s local manager said. The Glenwood Springs system is set to be turned on for customers sometime in July. It will provide high-speed Internet connections for computers and remote personal digital assistants, such as the Palm Pilot. The plan is for the city to sell wireless “last-mile” connections to city residents and businesses, but leave the marketing and customer service to already-existing Internet service providers. “We’re just trying to get this thing up and rolling,” Glenwood Springs city manager Mike Copp said. “We’re going to sell it to them and they’re going to sell it to their customers.” The pulling of fiber through the city’s already-installed conduits began Feb. 19 and now that it’s finished, it forms two rough loops – one around West Glenwood and one around the downtown area – casting a jagged figure-8. A “tail” off those loops will connect customers in the southern reaches of the city to the system.Once the system is turned on and deals are made between the city and ISPs, local residents will be able to order wireless Internet and the physical connection to a home or business would be from the city, while the connection to the Internet would be from a local provider. The bill also would come from the provider, who would pay the city a fee to use the system. He described the kickoff party as a “rah-rah” gathering for city leaders and the public. It will take place at 5 p.m. Friday in the Community Center. But competition looms near. According to local AT&T Broadband manager Jim Niswender, preliminary work on their cable upgrade began early in the year and the project could be completed as early as the end of 2002. The upgrades come as part of a $1.3 billion national increase in upgrade expenditures. “It’s good. It’s moving along,” Niswender said.When finished, the upgrade will more than double the system’s current capacity. “Between here and Carbondale, it really all kind of adds up,” he said. This week, AT&T crews will be working in areas west of County Road 154 within the city, including Coryell Ridge Road, Airport Road, Cardiff Glen subdivision, Sky Ranch subdivision and Colorow Road, but the improvements will eventually stretch as far as Carbondale. Active construction has been ongoing for about 60 days. “It allows us to add channels and do a lot of different things,” Niswender said. And while the upgrade will enable the company to offer high-speed Internet, Niswender said that’s “the last thing we’re going to do.””We’ve still got a lot of hurdles to jump,” he said. Bill Challis, administrator for Crimson Wireless, could fall into the “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” category. Last year, he criticized the city for directly competing with private business. But with the start-up of the city’s wireless system impending, he’s found himself checking the numbers to see if it would be financially shrewd to lease bandwidth from Glenwood Springs. “We haven’t made that decision yet. We’re waiting for the city to provide information,” he said. “Right now we still look at them as competition.”The company recently began covering Carbondale and El Jebel and Challis has plans to eventually cover Interstate 70 from Denver to Grand Junction. “We’re currently waiting for T1s to be delivered to Silt and New Castle, then, after that, we’ll get two systems lit up in Rifle, Parachute and Battlement Mesa. “Our intent is to try to create as much of a presence in the Interstate 70 core as possible,” he said. Sopris Surfers owner Paul Huttenhower said he plans to use the city’s system.”Currently we are planning to do that,” he said. The way it works, he said, is the customer will come to an ISP, such as Sopris Surfers, and the city will bill Sopris Surfers for each connection. Huttenhower said the price his company will charge for the service is not yet available, but he guessed it would be in the $45 to $55 a month range for residential customers. Businesses will pay more because they use more bandwidth, he said.


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