Beanpole project still early in 'growing season'

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"It's still early in the growing season, but we're well on the way to harvesting a bumper crop."

Such was NC Telecom's "bean crop" summary of the unfinished Northwest Colorado Beanpole project Tuesday in Steamboat Springs as part of a regional issues forum of the Colorado Rural Development Council.

Rick Heming, NC Telecom's operations manager, also noted Moffat County's first successful point-to-point connection for a service between public buildings, which could be paid under the nearly three-year-old $1.37 million Beanpole grant.

Hours before Tuesday's meeting, about six individuals held at the Moffat County Jail were advised for the first time by a television link finished by NC Telecom to the Moffat County Courtroom.

Judge Mary Lynne James said a similar connection is installed at the nearby District courtroom.

"We'd originally hoped to have it in place when they moved to the new jail (Moffat County Public Safety Center), but it didn't quite make it," said James, who did not attend the regional forum.

Moffat County placed the work order last month with NC Telecom to connect the courthouse and jail.

Beanpole dollars will pay the $230 per-month line charges for the next three years.

Heming's presentation Tuesday largely focused on similar successes.

As Moffat County saw its first link, six similar point-to-point connections between public buildings in Steamboat Springs are also running, while two in Hayden are ready for a hook-up.

The Yampa Valley Economic Development Council in August awarded NC Telecom a $775,000 contract to provide high-speed Internet links between public buildings in Craig, Rangely, Meeker, Hayden and Steamboat Springs -- while separately connecting Internet traffic to the state's multi-use network.

The multi-use network is a $100-million venture between the state and Qwest designed to bring advanced telecommunications services now used in many Front Range communities to each county seat over one system.

The network physically arrived in Craig and Steamboat Springs in May 2001, and has since waited for "last mile connectivity" that was contracted with NC Telecom for public buildings across Northwest Colorado.

Of the 55 requested "circuits," or connections, under the Beanpole program, 90 percent of the work orders are for links to Colorado's multi-use network, Heming said Tuesday.

Those numbers include 24 Northwest Colorado entities that have requested some service.

"The number of entities will be rising, and we fully expect that as we finish this up," Heming said.

Heming was hesitant to attach timeframes for when that might happen. At various points Tuesday, he offered estimates of "one week," to "a month," to "60 days."

The contract inked in August between the YVEDC and NC Telecom outlines a deployment schedule of Oct. 21, 2002, for the five cities to be connected to the state network, while Heming during public meetings last November said work should be finished around Dec. 20.

Heming said the burden is on Qwest to finish the project. Some 10 public entities in Moffat County are waiting on services.

"Lines have been requested through Qwest, and their timeframe is 60 days," Heming said. "They're committed to working as fast as they can. I don't know when that will be delivered."

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