Wireless Web project behind schedule
SUMMIT COUNTY – Local residents tired of dinosaur dial-up connections to the Internet can look forward to a high-speed option in the near future – but not as near as originally planned.
Transmission antennae necessary for the planned wireless Web links are caught up in the planning and zoning process, which is taking longer than officials thought it would.
The fast connections, once they are available, are part of a project initiated and funded by state government to bring rural Colorado into the high-speed Internet world.
The Beanpole Project provides grants to pay for the infrastructure necessary to access the state’s big-pipe Multiuse Network (MNT). The MNT allows entities such as municipal government agencies and nonprofit organizations to access the state’s fiber optic backbone, making the transfer of large amounts of data a relative breeze.
By subsidizing service for government and nonprofits, the state believes the economics become feasible for the service provider to offer service to private interests.
“It’ll be a pretty big benefit for county government,” said Summit County information systems director Byron Rice. “It’ll increase our connectivity bandwidth about 100-fold. The towns of Frisco and Dillon will benefit considerably, given their current infrastructure. This is pretty exciting. The government funding is a catalyst that will eventually benefit the home user.”
The Summit County Telecommunications Consortium (SCTC), a committee of local officials charged with negotiating contracts between towns and cable TV companies and negotiating the Beanpole Project, is chaired by Frisco town council member and telecommunications consultant Bernie Zurbriggen.
SCTC awarded a contract to Breckenridge-based Peak Speed Communications to set up the technology connection.
Peak Speed is the successor to Netbeam, also a wireless Internet service provider, which is currently in federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization proceedings.
The principal officers and founders of Netbeam, Greg Friedman and his wife, Judith Mercer-Friedman, are also the directors of Peak Speed. The two companies share offices on Airport Road.
The $456,000 contract awarded by the state to the SCTC, which subsequently chose Peak Speed as a vendor, leverages another $200,000 that will be paid to Peak Speed. The $200,000 is money government offices were already paying for Internet connections.
Peak Speed officials appeared Thursday before the Tenmile Planning Commission seeking permission to erect radio towers necessary for the wireless link.
Peak Speed’s plan is to install six towers – one at Frisco’s water tank on the North Tenmile trail, one at the County Commons, two at the Summit County landfill near Keystone, and one each on Gibson Hill and Barney Ford Hill in the Breckenridge area.
The construction of the towers must be approved by the respective basin planning commissions – the Tenmile, the Snake River and the Upper Blue – as well as at the county level. The permit applications will come before Snake River and Upper Blue commissioners in the next month.
“The prices we’ll be offering are unheard of, aren’t available anywhere else,” Friedman told the Tenmile commissioners, who continued the applications to their June meeting when they’ll see a site plan. “Because the grant pays for the infrastructure, we don’t have to recoup those costs.”
T-1 Internet access costs between $600 and $900 a month. The price for the promised wireless connection will be about the same, but provide 10 times the data transfer speed.
The original plan, as laid out in the contract between the county’s telecommunications consortium and Peak Speed, stipulated work would be completed by this month.
Zurbriggen said he had reached a new timeline agreement with Friedman, and the “backbone” of towers should be completed by July.
“The delay has been the result of two factors,” Zurbriggen said. “One is the weather. And, we weren’t thinking about having to go through the planning commissions. I should have known better.”
Zurbriggen was a planning commissioner for a total of 12 years with Frisco and the countywide plan-
Zurbriggen said a performance clause in the contract with Peak Speed that stipulated the company would be charged $656 for each day of delay beyond the completion deadline is not being exercised because of other language in the contract that specified the tower permits must be acquired before the deadline clock starts ticking.
Friedman said the planning process is taking longer than originally thought because of additional requirements. The towers, which will rise as high as 20 feet above the trees, require not only conditional use permits and site plans, but also require amendments to the county’s land use code.
“So we’re kind of following on the heels of the amendment process,” Friedman said. “I think if there are no disapprovals or further continuances, it should be completed by the end of July, and we’ll need 30 contiguous days after that to get everything up.”
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or email@example.com.
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