Letter: We could be in the same leadership position today

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, the U.S. Forest Service, public safety, county, Mountain Rescue Aspen and the Aspen Skiing Co. rallied to demonstrate the practical feasibility of sending 100 megabits of Internet service to rural distant locations in Pitkin County. The first and best time we came together. RFTA was visionary again.

I remember making the first cellular call from the visitor center at Maroon Bells. Wow, a fully completed 911 call to Aspen, with geo-location information. A possible life-saving telecom feature.

That day, I called via Skype to test video conferencing links down Maroon Creek. Wow, another first. Emergency responders and health care could take this new path to deliver critical care in one of our most remote locations.

That was August 2010. In 2011, Pitkin County citizens voted to move forward with plans to build on these successes by funding them. In typical valley style, I’d slept in a utility trailer during the six weeks it took me to design, install and demonstrate Rural Broadband in Pitkin County. We served served T-Lazy 7 residents, several residents along Castle Creek, RFTA, 911, and even Mountain Rescue Aspen on a co-operative basis. We went the extra mile. Even gate at Maroon Bells had telecom access, so a credit card reader would be installed.

Wow. Amazing. Pitkin County was literally months away from a full on county-wide deployment of networks connecting rural businesses, ranches, health care professionals, telecommuters, and the county’s services via 20-50 megabit real broadband.

That was 2010. Five years ago now. Today, with DOLA funds, the county will product yet another study, yet another ‘engineering’ proposal, yet another multi-year, waterfall project using 1950s project planning. We are in the age of Lean Startups. We are in the age to “prove” solutions before committing millions of dollars. That is our age, our methods — prove it, demonstrate it, build upon it, refine it, apply it, rinse and repeat. Keep it lean, stay hungry, keep moving. No more ‘studies’ please.

Today, we have much better technology than five years ago — five years of non-action, of no service, no additional experience gained in “our” community, by our community

Aspenworks, my company, did the original network plan, executed it in a very light, lean way to produce the best results for Pitkin County stakeholders. It operated flawlessly during that time. The plan lacked financial support to continue because the county couldn’t spend funds on it. Now, DOLA has stepped up with $100,000 grant. The citizens have voted to use part of a $500,000 a year cash stash for TV/FM radio service from the 1960s, for a modern internet network.

The network can be built to encourage innovation, free enterprise, open competition, and provide crucial internet services to Pitkin County. It could build on local experience, using local technologies. You may recall, Aspen was the Country’s first Broadband DSL town/city. That was 1996 and we did it locally, developed the business model locally.

Today, we could be in the same leadership position, together.

Alex Huppenthal