Our View: Look to the Cloud for potential community benefit | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Look to the Cloud for potential community benefit

There's been a lot of talk lately about improving technology infrastructure across Steamboat Springs and Routt County for economic development and quality of life. It's in that context that we applaud Northwest Data Services and its plan to deliver seamless wireless connectivity throughout downtown Steamboat, and potentially beyond.

Northwest Data Services' Steamboat Cloud would create access points to build a wireless network that blankets downtown. The company's motives are not completely altruistic — NDS plans to sell business sponsorships of the access points, and those sponsorships could prove to be a lucrative revenue stream. That said, such a wireless network would have significant community benefit. First, residents and guests would have unlimited, free access to the Internet while within the boundaries of the network; and second, it would send the message to guests and others that Steamboat is a progressive, connected community capable of providing the infrastructure needed to lure location-neutral professionals to Northwest Colorado

Why is wireless Internet access important? Even when on vacation, many Americans can't afford to be completely "offline" or simply don't want to be. There are email accounts to monitor, social media platforms to update and websites to browse. As they haul their smartphones, tablets and laptops around the world with them, they seek out coffee shops, restaurants and shops where unsecured Wi-Fi networks allow them to jump online and "check in." Or they pay for 24-hour plans from their hotels. 

If you've lived in Steamboat long enough, you know that cellular data networks are not always reliable on busy summer and winter tourism weekends. And although 4G LTE networks are expanding quickly across the country — AT&T supposedly is preparing to roll out LTE service here in the not-too-distant future — most wireless data providers have data limits and charge high rates for data overages. 

Most of us are familiar with the admittedly impish thrill of finding an accessible Wi-Fi network while away from our homes or offices. Imagine spreading that thrill to everyone shopping, dining and strolling through downtown Steamboat. Better, imagine sending the message to our guests that Steamboat is a place where you can easily work and play — and we make it easy for you to do so.

There's some selling to do before the Steamboat Cloud becomes reality, but it's ideas such as these that, when combined, can have a positive economic impact for Routt County.