Contract to improve area communication

Region to benefit from fiber-optic infrastructure

— The Moffat County Board of Commissioners decided Monday that White River Electric Association (WREA) and UBET Telecommunica-tions will bring high-speed telecommunications to Moffat County and Northwest Colorado. When the commissioners sign the check for $1.2 million, what will Moffat County and Northwest Colorado receive?

The agreement will provide high-speed, fiber optic telecommunications which allows the transfer of higher amounts of data than the telecommunication lines in use in Moffat County.

Under the proposal, the new DS-3 lines that will replace the current T-1 lines are more than 30 times faster. This will allow for accurate, high-speed transfer of large computer data files such as full duplex video and audio conferencing, and credit and debit card authorization.

Under the contract with WREA/UBET, the DS-3 lines will be installed in Moffat County and to Grand Junction by Jan. 1, 2001. The DS-3 line to Grand Junction will cost $500,000, covering the cost of services for 10 years. The second half of the agreement states that to facilitate devloping a telecommunications infrastructure, Moffat County will pre-pay an additional $700,000 for a 10-year period of additional services.

This additional money could be used to connect schools, hospitals and other county government buildings for a period of 10 years or until the the $700,000 is used. During this period Moffat County will be responsible for the cost of materials necessary to make any connections while WREA/UBET will complete the construction and installation at cost. A tariff charge for use of the lines will be either at the US West or WREA/UBET rate, whichever is lower.

The agreement between Moffat County and WREA/UBET is similar to buying a pre-paid phone card. The difference being that, included with the phone card, is the installation of the necessary equipment to get a telephone hooked up to the closest telephone lines.

The difference between the WREA/UBET offer and the US West offer is essentially the extra $700,000 in services.

The US West proposal stated the DS-3 structure from Craig to Grand Junction would be installed for a $11,396 non-recurring construction charge and a $7,248 monthly charge for 10 years, or $869,760. Extra services would be charged for connecting county facilities.

An additional part of the WREA/UBET proposal is that an additional five years of service for the DS-3 line to Grand Junction would be provided at no cost if Moffat County agrees to sign on to UBET Wireless services for a similar amount of time. This would give Moffat County 15 years of telecommunications service.

The WREA/UBET initial business plan indicates the new infrastructure will bring three to 20 new jobs to areas along the network routes. WREA/UBET officials said these positions are well-paid, and will utilize skilled, high-tech employees. Positions will include customer service representatives, marketing personnel and network technicians.

The WREA/UBET proposal also considers the future and surrounding communities.

The connection from Craig to Grand Junction is considered Phase 1 of a four-phase plan. Phase 2 will include connections from Meeker through Rangely. Phase 3 includes the connection from Rangely through Dinosaur and on to Vernal, Utah. Phase 4, if completed, will connect Craig east to Steamboat Springs.

When these phases will begin is not specifically outlined in the proposal, but according to Nelson Burton, central office supervisor for UBET, the expansion is a priority.

While county commissioners have agreed to select the WREA/UBET proposal, it doesn't mean the contract is set in stone. The proposal is contingent on the fact that Rio Blanco County commissioners agree to invest $1.2 million in the infrastructure running through Rio Blanco County.

WREA/UBET states in its proposal that Moffat County is obtaining connection to the advanced fiber optic network while receiving all of the money the county will invest in the project back in the form of services. Audrey Danner, of Yampa Valley Partners, believes the WREA/UBET proposal will bring lasting benefits to the region.

"The WREA/UBET proposal addresses all of the needs of Northwest Colorado," said Danner. "Besides our commitment to the Colorado State Patrol, that was the intent of this project."

According to Burton, rural telecommunications is UBET's priority and the company is glad to be working in Northwest Colorado.

"The smile on my face says it all," said Burton. "This area is just like where we came from. It makes us pleased to be bringing high-speed fiber optics to this type of community."

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