Local internet companies seek to get North Routt online | SteamboatToday.com

Local internet companies seek to get North Routt online

Hahns Peak rises above the forest in North Routt County. Local internet service providers are working to get the area online. (File photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Two local internet service providers are working to expand their service areas into North Routt County, an area plagued by slow or non-existent connections.

In North Routt, the only currently available broadband options are a 1.5 megabit-per-second DSL connection from CenturyLink and satellite internet, which costs $50 a month or more for a 12 megabit-per-second connection. Even if the connection runs at that speed, it’s slower than recommended for gaming or streaming video.

Deputy County Manager Dan Weinheimer said the remote and mountainous terrain of North Routt makes it costly and difficult for companies to get homes online.

“The other piece of it is just there aren’t many people, so to really have that customer base to make your investment worthwhile as a company is challenging,” he said.

Two locally owned internet service providers are looking to expand farther into rural Routt County.

Zirkel Wireless is exploring tower sites in North Routt County which would serve Clark, Hahn’s Peak, Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake.

The company is working to receive U.S. Forest Service permits to access a communications tower on Farwell Mountain and is seeking some other tower sites in North Routt County.

Zirkel’s Operations Manager Josh Nowak hopes to get Zirkel’s service online for 80 percent of the homes in the area by next summer.

Zirkel also is a beneficiary of Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, which will soon allow the company to broadcast wireless internet through television white space.

“What that ultimately does is, it allows us to push the same speeds that we’re providing today, but on a system that can deal with a lot more obstructions,” he said. This means the network can broadcast through trees and some hillsides, Nowak said.

“Not only is that going to benefit our entire network, but it will be a huge benefit to North Routt, specifically, because of the topography up there,” he said.

High Rapid Networks, based out of Craig, is working to build infrastructure to service Hayden and Steamboat around February and then expand north and south into the county. The company is also working to deliver faster LTE service.

“We’re going to be able to cover pretty much the whole downtown area up through Strawberry Park,” said Kelton Rochelle, Operations Manager at High Rapid. “Oak Creek will be (on) by spring of next year. If we can get enough interest from the community and people ready to be a part of it, then we can light up Clark and Hahn’s Peak area pretty quick, around spring of next year as well.”

He said with the interest of 15 or 20 homes and enough tower sites placed with a view of the Clark store, the company would start placing equipment in North Routt.

“If we can get interest in North Routt and people in Phippsburg and Yampa calling us — the quicker we can work with local property owners, the quicker that we can build our infrastructure.”

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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