Commissioner: Internet project closer to reality

Latest NC Telecom contract approval puts 'everything in place'

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With the latest contract approval in place, Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said today public agencies in Northwest Colorado will be hooked up to a high-speed telecommunication system by Dec. 20.

"Everything is in place and we're going forward," Raftopoulos said. "By Dec. 20 everyone who has requested service will be up and running."

Raftopoulos serves on the Yampa Valley Economic Development Council/Rio Blanco County, which recently approved a contract with NC Telecom Inc. to pay $775,000 in Beanpole grant funds to provide local high-speed telecommunication connections.

The council had already awarded a contract for $600,000 to Dimension Data to install equipment needed by entities for the new services.

The new fiber optic cables, which have already been put in place, will provide high-speed telecommunications to Moffat County offices, city of Craig offices, The Memorial Hospital, Moffat County schools, Colorado Northwestern Community College, law enforcement agencies and the library, Raftopoulos said.

The council selected NC Telecom Inc. as the preferred provider for the project in September of 2000.

The two other bidders for the contract were AT&T and Qwest

The services offered by AT&T cost about 10 percent more than those offered by NC Telecom, and Qwest was not as specific about exactly what services it could provide, Raftopoulos said, which is why the decision was made to go with NC Telecom two years ago.

"This is the highest speed service you can get," she said.

While the new service will initially be provided to public agencies, the infrastructure is now in place to expand to local businesses in the near future, Raftopoulos said.

"The ultimate goal is to provide access to all citizens," she said, which both the community and the company will want, she said.

"It's to NC Telecom's benefit to market to private business," she said.

Bringing NC Telecom brings something else to Northwest Colorado competition Raftopoulos said.

"Prior to this there was no competition in the market," she said. "We wanted to establish competition and give citizens more choices."

Rio Blanco County Commissioner Kim Cook, who is also a voting member of the committee responsible for bringing NC Telecom to the area, agreed.

"Telecommunications services that were once limited to the Front Range are now available in Northwest Colorado," she said. "In addition to the increase in range of services and increases in band width, we've also brought in lower prices and telecom competition for both governmental entities and main street businesses. You can count on one hand the number of rural areas across the country that have been able to do what we've done."

Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison said even though the project has taken longer than the council had planned, they are still ahead of most rural areas in bringing high-speed telecommunications.

"It has taken longer than we thought it would by a least year to get this system to the operational stage," he said. "Yet I believe that this project will be very successful for Northwest Colorado. Even with our delays, we are still ahead of most of the rest of the state in going on line with the Beanpole project."

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