Not all parties happy with Beanpole service
SUMMIT COUNTY – Revelations that Peak Speed Communications filed for bankruptcy weren’t as disappointing as the difficulties of using the high-speed wireless Internet access system, two systems administrators say.
A consortium of local government officials contracted Peak Speed to connect government and nonprofit offices to the state’s high-speed Internet network. It paid Peak Speed $426, 902 through a Beanpole grant to build the system.
The Beanpole Project, funded by the state’s Department of Local Affairs, helped connect county and municipal government offices, agencies such as fire departments and sanitation districts, and groups such as the Summit Prevention Alliance at more than 40 locations.
The state targeted the money in an effort to bring high speed access to rural areas.
And while Summit County Telecommunications Consortium (SCTC) and Summit County government officials announced Friday that they are sticking with Peak Speed to continue operating the system, at least one group hooked up through the project is dropping out.
Jeff Melendrez, systems administrator for the Keystone Center, worked with the consortium and the county to connect the center, as well as the Keystone Science School.
Melendrez said he found it a bit surprising to read the news of Peak Speed’s bankruptcy, and Summit County information systems director Byron Rice’s comment that “As far as we’re concerned, we’re happy customers here.”
“I found Byron Rice’s comment the voice of a possible minority,” Melendrez wrote in an e-mail to the Summit Daily News.
In a telephone interview Friday, Melendrez said the project has been rife with problems. He cited the delays in installation (the project was originally scheduled to be completed by May 2003, which was later extended to January 2004) and signal interruptions as the biggest issues.
“The vice president had me pull everybody off (the connection),” he said. “Fortunately, we had retained our DSL connection from Colorado.net. The (Beanpole) service has dropped out just about every week. And then I’d call the customer support number, which was in Florida, and they’d tell me engineers were on-site working on it – which was interesting since it had only been 10 minutes, and the tower is up at the landfill.”
Melendrez said the science school will continue to use the wireless service because it’s only alternative is a slow, dial-up connection. The school’s connection is often disrupted, though, by interference from wind and tree branches between the signal tower and antennae.
Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center systems administrator Jim Anderson had mixed feelings toward the Beanpole system.
“We’ve got the good, the bad and the ugly,” Anderson said.
The good, he said, is that the nonprofit’s ski office in Breckenridge has been able to connect. The bad is that the BOEC’s main administrative offices have never been hooked up.
“We’ve been in touch with them, there’s been a series of problems and, basically, I decided I’m pursuing alternate routes,” Anderson said.
And the ugly: The BOEC’s Griffith Lodge, off Four O’Clock Road, has had problems from the beginning that have required Anderson to frequently move dishes and tree branches to maintain a signal.
“It’s really unfortunate,” he said.
Other groups had very positive things to say. Staff at the Summit Prevention Alliance, for example, said the system is a huge improvement over dial-up service.
Rice, speaking at the SCTC emergency meeting Friday said Summit County government was the biggest Peak Speed customer and it was happy with the results of high speed connectivity.
When contracted, Peak Speed, and its sister-company Netbeam, touted the advantages of wireless technology and erected a backbone of six radio towers to link the offices with the state’s fiber optic network, known as the Multiuse Network or MNT.
At its inception three years ago, the Beanpole Project was initiated to facilitate the work of government departments and nonprofits – offices that need to access large public databases and transmit hefty electronic files.
Peak Speed filed for bankruptcy last week, just five months after a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved the Chapter 11 reorganization of Netbeam.
The bankruptcy proceeding resulted in the merger of Netbeam and Peak Speed, both founded by Greg Friedman and his wife, Judith Mercer-Friedman.
County and consortium officials announced Friday they would not exercise a contract provision that would allow them to assume ownership of the Beanpole system in the event of Peak Speed’s bankruptcy.
They said they would see if new Peak Speed president Tom Balun would make good on his pledges to pay subcontractors who built the system and keep the system running.
The officials did not provide any personal information or professional background on Balun. All they knew Friday was that he was from the East Coast and had taken an interest in Peak Speed. They expect to meet with him some time this week in Summit County.
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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