High-speed Internet competition heats up
SUMMIT COUNTY – The high-speed Internet connection battle for your buck has begun. Finally.Qwest Communications International Inc., the local phone company, and Comcast are unveiling faster Internet connection service options in Summit County. Until now, only pockets of the county had access to fast Internet connections via Colorado Net.Most of the county has been forced to tolerate slow, dial-up Internet access using modems and telephone lines. Residents have even petitioned the corporations for high-speed service.High-speed Internet service runs 10 to 125 times faster than dial-up Internet service, depending on what you pay. In addition to faster Web surfing, computer users can download photos, movie clips, music, online games, business transactions, text or graphics much faster using either digital subscriber lines (DSL) or cable lines.For example, a picture that would take minutes to appear on the monitor with dial-up service would take seconds with new connections. Dial-up service can transfer 56 kilobytes per second (kbs), whereas high-speed options transfer 256 kbs, 640 kbs or up to 7,000 kbs.Qwest announced Tuesday that its Qwest DSL service is now available in Breckenridge, Dillon and Frisco. Competitor Comcast, formerly AT&T Broadband, has been laying lines this year to offer high-speed Internet in addition to cable television and telephone services in the high country.The advantage of DSL service is that high-speed Internet access and common telephone calls can both use the same telephone line without interfering with each other. DSL can stay on all the time.The cost for high-speed Internet connection varies.A menu of options is available, but Qwest is offering a promotional deal to Summit County consumers who subscribe before December.The cost to start residential Qwest DSL service at a speed of 256 kbs is $35 per month, or for 640 kbs the service costs $40 per month.For those prices, consumers must use MSN as their service provider because Qwest has a contract with the Microsoft product.The monthly fee includes unlimited access and up to eight MSN e-mail accounts. Through November, Qwest is not charging the $50 setup fee for customers who choose the promotion with MSN as the Internet service provider.Also included is the modem, which rents for $2 per month otherwise. After one year, MSN subscribers may keep the modem, but if customers drop MSN service they must return the modem or else pay $100.The cost of high-speed Internet access increases if customers choose to use their Internet service providers (ISP) such as America Online, TCI, Front Range and Dimensionals, to name a few.A local ISP, Peak to Peak Internet based in Boulder with offices in Dillon and Vail, said people should consider their options carefully.”People do have a choice (of ISP). Many don’t know that. You might have better customer service if you go with someone local,” said Tyler May, sales person and technician at Peak to Peak Internet, which uses DSL.Qwest’s DSL charges for service with an ISP other than MSN includes a $50 hook-up fee, a $2-$5 per month modem fee, a charge of $22 per month for 256 kbs or $32 per month for 640 kbs, an ISP charge ranging from $8 (for America Online) to $35 for an office package subscription. Activation and ISP fees might be additional costs.Users who need service for a network of computers might choose a different ISP than MSN. MSN does not offer as many support services to networks, whereas other ISPs do.Although Internet connections via cable (Comcast eventually) are reportedly faster than DSL, May said, cable customers reportedly have less security online. But Comcast spokeswoman Tiffany Payne said there’s no reason why that would be the case.The Comcast caseOf the $200 million Comcast is spending in Colorado infrastructure, nearly $7 million is going into Summit County upgrades.By mid-November residents could watch many more TV channels for $9-$90 per month. After Comcast comes in with digital cable, it will bring in high-speed Internet, high-definition TV and “TV-on-demand video.”Although no date is set for start of service, Comcast will charge $50-$60 for high-speed Internet service.Qwest is spending $75 million to bring DSL to nearly 500 communities in 14 states.Qwest apparently has not kept the Summit County Telecommunications Consortium posted on its ventures.”This is a pleasant surprise to hear from Qwest because we’d encouraged them for years to do this and they said the market wasn’t viable here and they couldn’t afford to put in the infrastructure,” said Bernie Zurbriggen, the Frisco Town Council member who is president of the consortium.Zurbriggen for nearly 10 years has worked to expand the telecommunications market and price competition for county residents.The reason Qwest DSL is not in Silverthorne, Zurbriggen said, might be because DSL can only reach three miles from central offices, and the office is in Dillon.Plus, much of Silverthorne is served by subscriber line services, which cannot carry DSL, Zurbriggen said. Comcast will go into Silverthorne and Keystone, Payne said.Once customers call Qwest it will take five to six business days to begin receiving the service, said a customer service representative.Christine McManus can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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