Valley roaring along info superhighway |

Valley roaring along info superhighway

Compared to many rural regions in Colorado, the Roaring Fork Valley is ahead of the curve in providing high-speed Internet service to residents.

But there are many miles to travel on the information superhighway before the valley will catch up with some areas on the Front Range.

During a seminar held in Carbondale on Friday, “Wired in the Roaring Fork Valley,” experts from across the state applauded the strides made here and pointed out needs that still are not being met.

“Carbondale stands out because the people are making a difference,” Colorado Secretary of Technology Marc Holtzman said.

Holtzman, a Missouri Heights resident, is just one of two state cabinet technology secretaries in the United States.

“If you were to look back at the state’s economy only 10 years ago, tourism, agriculture and natural resources were at the top. Technology has catapulted into the No. 1 industry today,” Holtzman said.

In the next 10 years, Holtzman predicted biotechnology will become the biggest sector of the economy, breaking the state’s historic boom-bust cycle in favor of a more solid financial base.

“This is the first chance for us to free ourselves from these (boom-bust) shackles,” he said.

The Roaring Fork Valley, he said, is becoming an important part of that industry.

“On a connectivity measure, we can be just as connected as anyone in Colorado – or the U.S. for that matter,” he said. “It means people will be free of geographical constraints.”

The reason for that, he said, is that the “movers and shakers” who live in the area have demanded it.

But many residents still have no way of connecting to affordable high-speed Internet. Those are the areas that demand attention, he said.

Schoolchildren could benefit from high speed Internet.

One of the ways to implement this technology is to create “high-tech high schools,” he said.

The concept first was implemented in San Diego, Calif., with money from Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Holtzman and Gov. Bill Owens approached Gates to request $10 million for the Colorado Institute of Technology. While Gates declined to donate the money, he did agree to make Colorado the home of the nation’s second high-tech high school.

“It uses high-tech to educate kids,” Holtzman said.

Students attending the school in San Diego scored surprisingly high in California standardized testing, even though many were from low-income families.

“This school can come to Carbondale. It’s to touch kids who would be left out of such programs,” he said. Holtzman promised to match money raised locally to start such a school in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“We want to be a model and a laboratory for the public school system,” he said.

Colorado Institute of Technology president John Hansen touched on the use of technology to help people at the college level.

“Technology must have a purpose, and one of the key ones is education. Within four years, we will have a full, four-year computer science program online,” Hansen said of the University of Colorado.

By using such a program, people throughout the state will be able to learn at a high caliber without physically being at a high-caliber and high-cost college.

“The technology is just now there. They’re creating small groups of people who take these classes together,” he said. “Technology can solve the haves and the have-nots. I would strongly encourage you to get plugged into high-speed broadband Internet.”

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