Regional team preps for telecom proposals
Local officials say future telecommunications improvements such as faster Internet service in Northwest Colorado won’t exclude Steamboat Springs, but they are still unsure exactly when the improvements will occur.
Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison will be part of a regional team making a recommendation to the Moffat County Board of Commissioners on Monday about which company to choose to bring telecommunications improvements to the area. The improvements are needed to service the Colorado State Patrol regional communications center in Craig.
The recommendation will be made after the group looks at two competing proposals: one from US West and the other from a partnership of White River Electric Company and UBTA Communications. The regional team is composed of Ellison and representatives of Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, as well as state telecommunications experts.
Ellison said at a preparatory meeting Wednesday in Hayden that the time frame for when Steamboat Springs gets the improvements may depend on what the group hears Monday.
“But the thing that’s really driving the time frame is the State Patrol,” he said.
True to a point, said Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos.
“If we were just focused on what the State Patrol needs, though, it would already be built,” she said. “We want to include private businesses’ and residents’ needs in the future technology options, too.”
While Raftopoulos said she has to represent the best interests of Moffat County taxpayers in the decision Monday, Ellison said Routt County has the interest of revenue-minded companies.
“Steamboat is the largest metro area and the fastest growing area of the three counties involved,” he said. “Those companies know where the revenue stream potential is, which will also benefit other areas of Routt County to a lesser extent.”
The Steamboat Springs grants analyst, Winnie DelliQuadri, is helping the team organize its decision. She said whatever decision is made, there needs to be a way to phase coverage.
“Not all three counties have to have the same service at the exact same time, but no one should be locked out of an opportunity,” DelliQuadri said.
The group is working off the assumption that fiber optic lines offer much more opportunity for future expansion of technology service than microwave technology.
“We’re hoping to find out Monday what future technology is possible with each company, because we haven’t heard that yet,” Raftopoulos said. “If they want to be awarded the bid, they’ll have to be specific about whether they’ll use fiber or microwave.”
She said public opinion about microwave capabilities is not positive.
“Our citizens want a system that will not be shortsighted,” she said. “They view microwave as limited and not a long-range system.”
Stephanie Reineke, with Internet service provider SpringSips, said the most important issue to keep in mind is the scale of future options.
“This industry changes so much and so fast, so the more you can plan for that the better,” she said. “Think about how scalable this system is, so that in a few years you’re not having to reinvent the wheel.”
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