U S West awarded $37M contract for ‘beanpole’ | SteamboatToday.com

U S West awarded $37M contract for ‘beanpole’

— Gov. Bill Owens announced Monday that U S West has been chosen to install a fiber-optic backbone that will connect state offices in rural areas with high-speed Internet capabilities, which will essentially open up broad-band capabilities at a reasonable price in all parts of Colorado.

The $37 million project will begin construction in Steamboat Springs next year.

It will take an estimated 10 years before the whole state is connected.

“Any way you look at this, it’s exciting,” U S West Director of Public Affairs Bonnie Pehl-Peterson said.

The backbone, which has been dubbed the multi-use network, will cut through the Yampa Valley from Craig, through Hayden and into Steamboat.

Plans for the multi-use network began in 1996 after the Colorado Legislature passed a bill to ensure that all state offices would get broad-band Internet access.

Seeing the potential of high-speed capabilities, the state made plans to build the network with enough capacity for city offices, hospital, schools and private businesses in all 64 of Colorado’s counties.

The network is like a 20-lane highway for information with enough exit ramps to have multiple connections, more than what government offices would use.

State offices, for example, would have only one lane of the highway.

“It will be 100 percent available to Colorado citizens,” Pehl-Peterson said. “That’s the most exciting thing.”

When the multi-use network is finished, rural communities will have access to such services as distance learning, tele-medicine, electronic commerce, Internet access and telecommuting. For some communities, the network will provide their first taste ever of such high-tech programs.

In announcing the contract, Owens said the network is needed to lure high-tech companies that rely on broad-band Internet access to relocate in rural areas, helping those areas to grow.

Pehl-Peterson explained that every county seat will have an aggregated network access point (ANAP) built, which is essentially the on-ramp to the backbone.

The ANAP will be available for anyone to buy a connection to it and pay for service at a reasonable price.

For a T1 connection, for example, which can carry relatively large amounts of information over the Internet, the cost goes from around $1,000 down to $300, Pehl-Peterson said.

Areas up to 15 miles from the ANAP will receive a standard fee for connection and services.

Places outside the 15-mile radius will have to pay an additional fee for the connection.

However, an ANAP point in every county seat will shorten the distance that outside connections have to go. Internet users in Oak Creek, for instance, have to pay for the miles to connect to Dillon, where now they would be able to connect via the shorter link to Steamboat Springs.

In connection with the multi-use network, the Legislature also passed a bill in 1996 that would help pay for high-speed Internet service for city and county buildings, as well as hospitals and schools.

Money from the bill, called the beanpole bill, was granted to northwest Colorado last month. With the announcement that U S West was awarded the contract to build the network, local officials can begin to work on their plan.

“Now we are getting information on the employment of the multi-use network,” Steamboat Springs grants analyst Winnie DelliQuadri said.

— To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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