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Amigo.Net plans partnership with Qwest to renew DSL effort

Jeremy Browning

Amigo.Net plans to upgrade its marquee wireless Internet service by bringing DS3 capacity to Craig in August, said Chief Technical Officer Robbie Jackson.

Amigo.Net’s wireless broadband surpasses the speed and range of DSL connections the company provided in the past.

DSL, which stands for Digital Subscriber Line, is a way to send high-speed data transmissions over phone lines. Amigo.Net began to supply this service to Colorado in 1997. To set up a new customer, Amigo.Net would order a basic phone line, called a dry pair, from Qwest. This line, so plain that it carried no dial tone, was cheap at $15 per month. Then Amigo.Net would send its own DSL signal over the line, delivering high-speed Internet access to the subscriber.



But Qwest began to increase the cost of the lines Amigo.Net was ordering, eventually charging more for the plain copper lines than for residential phone lines, Jackson said.

When Qwest charged $80 per month for this line, Amigo.Net had to switch tracks. “Qwest pushed Internet providers out of the market because the providers were paying more for the copper line than they could charge customers for the services,” Jackson said.



Amigo.Net quit signing up new DSL customers.

“Three years ago we shifted our emphasis to wireless,” Jackson said. “We spent a week in Meeker cutting everyone over to wireless because of the costs from Qwest.”

Amigo.Net’s broadband wireless Internet service requires installation of a wireless transceiver with line-of-sight to one of the company’s four local access points, said Michael Lausin, owner of Solutions Oriented Systems Computer Consulting and a subcontractor who sets up wireless installations for Amigo.Net in Craig.

Lausin said the wireless service is a “no-brainer” for people who currently use dialup and have a separate phone line for their computers. The extra line and the dialup account together cost more than $40, Lausin said.

Amigo.Net charges $44.95 a month for its basic wireless service, which stays connected 24 hours a day at speeds up to 5 times faster than dialup.

When Amigo.Net’s wireless service dropped below $50 a month, the company saw the number of monthly subscribers double. Many of the new subscribers left dialup for the wireless alternative, Jackson said.

Amigo.Net operates in more than 20 towns in Colorado, including Craig, Hayden and Meeker.

The company does not currently offer DSL service to new subscribers in Craig, Jackson said.

However, Amigo.Net soon will partner with Qwest to once again provide DSL service to Craig. Under the new partnership, Qwest will provide a DSL signal that will travel over the same line as voice transmissions. Amigo.Net will provide the connection to the Internet. Qwest will charge $21.95 a month for their part, Jackson said. Amigo.Net will charge $18.95 a month for their most basic plan, which offers connection speeds up to 256 kilobits per second. Other plans vary according to bandwidth.

The time frame for the new DSL service, which Amigo.Net has branded ‘Outlaw DSL,’ is up in the air.

“Qwest is way behind,” Jackson said.

By offering both DSL and wireless services, Amigo.Net hopes to overcome the shortcomings of both technologies, Jackson said.

DSL data transmission speeds suffer as the distance from the customer to Qwest’s local central office increases. The age and condition of the phone lines also affect the speed of the signal.

“There are a lot of poor phone lines in rural areas,” Jackson said.

Wireless Internet services require a direct line-of-sight from the customer’s radio receiver to one of the service provider’s relay sites.

“Craig is one of our toughest areas because there’s not one big mountain peak that every one can see,” Jackson said.

Craig has more relay sites than any city where Amigo.Net operates.

One tower serves the entire city of Trinidad.

“In Meeker, we have two sites that can serve almost everyone,” Jackson said.

John Ponikvar, owner of NAPA Auto Parts in Craig, provides one of Craig’s four relay sites. He allowed Amigo.Net to set up a relay site on a second-floor deck at his house on Thompson Hill south of Loudy-Simpson Park. In exchange, Amigo.Net gave him free Internet access.

It worked out well for him because when the trees across the street from NAPA blocked the signal to Amigo.Net’s Yampa Street relay site, he was able to turn his antenna toward the relay on his house.

The wireless service has opened new possibilities for his business. He now has instant access to 51 NAPA parts warehouses in the U.S.

“The speed is making it a lot more convenient for us,” Ponikvar said.

Action Drain Services is another Craig business that has taken advantage of Amigo.Net’s wireless broadband service. Joe Herod, part owner of Action Drain Services, said his company has been subscribing for about six months. The company tried multiple Internet Service Providers, but Herod said, “We never could get dialup to work.”

For more information regarding Amigo.Net, call (719) 589-6100 or log onto http://www.amigo.net.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com.


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