No fiber optic vote in Glenwood this fall | AspenTimes.com

No fiber optic vote in Glenwood this fall

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Voters won’t decide this fall whether the city can issue some $12 million in bonds to pay for expanding Glenwood Springs’ fiber-optic network.

The question was expected to be on a ballot this fall, but now it’s unclear when it may be posed to voters.

“We’re still doing our due diligence in the areas of a market assessment, verifying costs and revenues and doing some very preliminary engineering and basically assessing our system,” said City Manager Jeff Hecksel.

The city continues to look into expanding its fiber-optic network installed in 2002. The current network directly connects only to businesses in some areas, but the expansion would allow the city to sell Internet, television and phone service directly to homes. The city would probably sell off its wireless infrastructure and customers, and then partner with private companies, giving them exclusive rights to the network.

In April, the city won a 707-605 vote on a ballot question authorizing Glenwood Springs municipal government to provide Internet, television and phone services through fiber-optics. City officials said the vote was necessary to allow the city to continue investigating the expansion.

A business plan for the expansion from Alcatel Lucent and Uti Inc. proposes a $12 million expansion cost. The debt would be repaid by user fees and not taxes.

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Supporters believe the expansion would get the network to break even or make money while bringing cheaper and better services to consumers. They say it would keep money local, bring more businesses to the city, create jobs, raise home values and benefit school districts and health care. Critics say the expanded network couldn’t compete with the services large companies offer, and it would fail financially.

The current network has lost around $200,000 a year for the past three years, according to the city. City officials have said they won’t expand the network unless they are very confident the business plan will work.

Hecksel said the city currently has contracts with http://www.rof.net and Zoomy Communications for help with “due diligence.”

John Trustman, who is working with http://www.rof.net on a planning contract for the city, said http://www.rof.net will present an update at the next City Council meeting on its planning work for the expansion. He said the Alcatel and Uti business plan was more conceptual and the work http://www.rof.net is doing is much more practical.

He said the planning contract includes three phases. First was an in-depth analysis and testing of the current network. Second is looking at what kind of services people actually want, and third is examining practical details of the network and costs and revenues.

Trustman said the fiber-optic expansion could result in lower prices for things like Internet and telephone services because it would be operated as a nonprofit. It would also reinvest funds locally rather than elsewhere, and it would be run by experts who want to focus on providing better services in Glenwood rather than making a profit.

“It’s actually very, very encouraging,” he said of the work so far. “It looks like it’s going to be the kind of thing that will provide huge benefits to the people of Glenwood and people throughout the valley because it’s going to deliver them a technological infrastructure that Qwest and Comcast don’t have plans to get out here for 10 to 15 years.”

pfowler@postindependent.com

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