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Netbeam competitor offers view of bidding, limitations of wireless

John Uhley, vice president for Internet services, Vail and Breckenridge

In response to Frisco Town Councilmember Bernie Zurbriggen’s letter regarding the Beanpole Project and the Summit County Telecommunications Consortium (SCTC), I would like to clear up a couple things and put forth a serious concern that ColoradoNet has voiced about the project.

Here is our view of historical events:

n Regarding the idea we (VailNet/ColoradoNet) missed the boat on bidding for the project because we did not see the published Request for Proposal in the Summit Daily News: It disturbs me that in several sections of Mr. Zurbriggen’s letter he makes it appear that VailNet/ColoradoNet was not interested in participating. As he points out, we were involved in initial conversations with the SCTC three years ago.



However, this was well before state funding was available or any bid request existed.

After these preliminary meetings, we began building our Internet service network – rather than just talking about how to find funds to build one.



I do not recall ever being told by Mr. Zurbriggen or his team that funds had become available in the December 2000 time frame. Similarly, I have no recollection of any consultant contacting me. If a consultant did speak to me, it must have been years ago, and it seems unlikely that it would have been in the context of soliciting any type of “bid” from ColoradoNet.

Knowing that people are talking about a project and knowing that the project has been funded or is being put out to bid are two different things.

While we would have been happy to submit a bid, and believe we could have done so at a substantially lower cost to the taxpayers than the $456,000 “low bid” that was awarded to Peak Speed, we agree this is a moot point. We have accepted full responsibility and “blame” for what one Summit Daily editorial referenced as us “not paying attention.”

The simple truth is that we didn’t see the RFP and as a result we didn’t submit a bid. We are not complaining about this or the bid process.

n In Mr. Zurbriggen’s letter, he summarizes the purpose of the Beanpole grant “to use government as an anchor tenant in the use of advanced telecommunications services, so that infrastructure is created that will make these advanced services available to all businesses and residents within our community.”

I wish to point out we believe ColoradoNet’s existing high-speed network already addresses most of this goal today.

The final phase of a ColoradoNet’s fiber-optics upgrade in Summit County was completed Thursday. ColoradoNet’s “in-county” network now links together our equipment in Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne with a fiber-optics based backbone which can transport data at rates of up to 100 Mb per second.

Our fiber-optics hardware can easily be upgraded to transfer data between these locations at rates as high as 1,000 Mb per second (also known as a Gigabit per second), should the need ever arise.

Our current equipment, which connects to customers’ homes and businesses, already delivers high-speed Internet services to qualified clients via the diverse choices of T1, DSL and wireless technology at speeds of up to 10 Mb per second today.

Residential customers pay as little as $49.95 a month and business customers pay as little as $69.95 a month to connect to the Internet using ColoradoNet DSL hardware.

The yet-to-be-built network the SCTC is using taxpayer monies to support is based entirely on a wireless transport technology. 

It may be that statements like “Summit County’s telecommunications infrastructure is not capable of providing high-speed service,” which can be found on Peak Speed/NetBeam’s Web site, were part of the decision process which led some members of the SCTC to decide to go with a wireless-only network. 

Since I was not a party to the decision-making, I can only speculate. In any case, such a statement is simply not accurate. ColoradoNet’s use of existing telecommunications infrastructure proves that, in most cases, the local telecommunications infrastructure not only can support high-speed services, but already does.

I also have to question if any Internet connection cost savings will be seen by consumers. I understand from the Peak Speed/Netbeam Web site that its proposed pricing structure of “MegaSpeed Private Sector Internet Bandwidth” starts at $350 a month for a 1 megabit connection.

Compared to our long-standing rates of as little as $150 to $265 per month for a megabit of DSL service it would appear that even if completed, Peak Speed’s offering to the public may end up being more expensive than existing solutions.

n It is my understanding the initial “anchor tenant” to be hooked up to the Peak Speed wireless network is to be composed of roughly 53 local government and public organizations.

A number of these government and public organizations who qualify to use the discounted State MNT network were already using ColoradoNet for Internet service. Some of these customers approached us and asked if it would be possible to continue to use ColoradoNet’s local infrastructure and support but “switch” to the State MNT network for their connectivity.

ColoradoNet, again at our own expense, worked directly with the state MNT staff and has already added a direct private connection from our Summit County infrastructure into the state MNT network. Several qualified local Summit County public agencies are already using ColoradoNet’s in-county network as transport to and from the state network and are now switched over to the state network.

I believe that in most cases, the monthly cost that these customers are paying to connect to the MNT network is less than the cost proposed by the SCTC vendor for the same service. In addition, most of these customers utilize our DSL or T1 technology to connect – versus wireless. 

It is my opinion that this grants them a higher level of security and reliability than a wireless solution can offer and avoids the need for potentially unsightly antennas on their buildings. 

I believe that our connection to the MNT network is not costing taxpayers a penny and is costing those MNT qualified customers who wish to use ColoradoNet as their transport to and from the state network less per month than it would to use the network being paid for by the SCTC.

The vast majority of the Peak Speed as-yet-to-be-built network is wireless, and at least a portion of it is slated to operate in the same non-licensed frequency range that ColoradoNet and others, including Netbeam, use today. 

We expressed our concern to both Netbeam and Peak Speed about the likelihood of increased noise and wireless interference that all of these competing networks are likely to generate. You can think of this as overcrowding.

All of these companies operate in what amounts to a very small room (frequency range). There are a limited number of channels (parts of the room). 

If the room is filled up with different providers (ColoradoNet, Netbeam, Peak Speed, future providers) and we all turn on radios (wireless data services) “loudly,” it will be awfully hard to hear one’s own music playing (data flowing without colliding with the other providers’ data flowing).

The result of increased noise or wireless interference in a limited non-licensed frequency range can result in a slow down, or in the worst case, a complete failure of our mutual networks.

This is one reason why the bulk of ColoradoNet’s network was built using non-wireless technologies that are not subject to this risk.

We expressed our concerns over this issue to Peak Speed and even suggested that it would make good sense to reach an agreement under which all of ColoradoNet’s wireless sites would be set to operate on one channel (on one side of the room) and that all of Peak Speed wireless sites would be set to operate on another distant channel (conceptually operating on the other side of the room).

Sadly, Peak Speed’s position has been to refuse to discuss such issues with us, claiming it didn’t believe any communications with us were in their best interests.

As a result we submitted our concerns to the SCTC on May 7. We have yet to receive adequate (or any) answers to these concerns from Peak Speed.

SCTC has responded to us by indicating that it has passed our concerns back to Peak Speed, hopefully encouraging it to rethink its position. Without at least some cooperation between our respective companies, I am concerned both of our existing networks as well as the network that Peak Speed is building may have problems delivering reliable service.


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