As the city of Cortez strives to become a major information hub of the Southwest with its Fiber to the Business project, local service providers ponder the possibilities of a publicly owned, privately utilized, high-speed, fiber-optic network.
Ernie Young, a technical supervisor for Baja Broadband in Cortez, spoke at a Cortez Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday, saying the proposed network is comparable in technological capability to networks in major metropolitan areas.
Its really impressive to see how far advanced this community is going to get with this fiber-optic (network) that is going to be put in as a backbone, Young said.
Young believes the network will draw businesses to Cortez by offering information infrastructure capable of supporting satellite businesses, software companies and video conferencing.
That saves time, money and travel, he said. It lets you stay better connected.
Although Young said he is not yet able to say what services Baja Broadband will provide on the network, Baja is interested in utilizing the network.
A lot of things are going to be able to be shared, quicker, faster, and were hoping to be a big part of that with the city, he said. If you think about it, even though the fibers smaller than your hair for us, its a huge pipe that we can use to transfer data.
Baja Broadband provides Internet and television services in Cortez.
As businesses expand and grow, well be able to keep up with their needs, Young said.
Doug Pace, a general manager for Farmers Telephone Co., said the cost for businesses to connect to the network is currently a bargain.
Ultimately, the networks success depends on interest by local businesses, Pace said.
The city of Cortez is under the microscope by the state and federal agencies, because of the grant money they got, to see if they can actually make this thing work, he said.
Chamber of commerce Executive Director Dena Guttridge agreed.
Everybody is keeping an eye on little Southwest Colorado, Guttridge said. Here we are right on the verge of launching this amazing project. I dont think people really understand what were doing in this area. This is huge. We have the potential of having the fastest, most capable Internet in the state, and all over the Southwest.
Work is progressing on the installation of fiber-optic lines along the Main Street corridor in Cortez and is expected to be completed by mid-April.
Businesses interested in joining the network can purchase drops to physically connect to the fiber-optic line. Drops currently cost a one-time fee of $150 for a small business or home and $175 for a medium business. Other rates are available for large businesses and multi-unit buildings.
Typically, a drop could cost more than $1,000, but the city is offering a discounted price because it is cheaper to install numerous drops at once in a given area, said Rick Smith, director of general services for the city.
The drop is similar in concept to a water tap because it stays with the property and might increase the propertys value, Smith said.
This is an asset for the property because it stays with the property, he said.
Drops can be purchased through the city, or can be offered by service providers, Smith said.
The citys Fiber to the Business project utilizes grant money to construct a fiber-optic network for businesses in the Main Street corridor to be managed in a public-private partnership.
The city of Cortez will build and maintain the network, which expands on a 50,000-foot existing network connecting schools, the hospital, fire district, government buildings and law enforcement structures.
The current $1 million phase of the project connects interested businesses along the Main Street corridor.
Private television, Internet, telephone, and security system providers may tap into the city fiber-optic network to provide their services to business customers.
The list of service providers invited to join in the program includes Farmers Telephone Co., Baja Broadband, Velocity.net Internet Services, Fasttrack Communications, Brainstorm Internet, PacketRail, Skywerx Industries, the area television district and Alpine Security, which might be able to provide security system services through the network.
Smith told the Journal in October that the network could provide a blazing 2.4 gigabits-per-second data download rate for a price that is comparable to a digital subscriber line, or DSL.
Hopefully, by having those people compete, it will bring more choices and more capacity for the same price, he said, adding the private service providers need only tap into the city network. You can see why theyre interested.
Private providers will handle marketing, services and price setting, Smith said. Qwest declined to participate.
The network also will support high-definition television and voice telephone, he said.
The current phase, which was scaled down due to budget constraints, has the potential to provide service to many West Main Street businesses from the intersection with Broadway to the Cortez City Park. Businesses on the north side of East Main Street from Sligo Street to North Dolores Road also might be eligible.
Smith said fiber optics will not become obsolete in the near future. Even wireless networks such as cellular phone networks are built on a backbone of land-based, fiber-optic networks, he said.
The project is funded by a Southwest Colorado Council of Governments Grant, with a $250,000 city contribution. It is part of a statewide fiber-optic infrastructure development plan. Smith hopes to begin offering businesses services as early as December.
The long-term goal is to expand the fiber-optic service to every home and business in Cortez, he said.
Interested business owners can call the city service center at 564-4055.
Young said the public/private network is likely to be the way of the future.
Cortez is very unique what theyre putting in right now, he said. I think were really fortunate to have this opportunity.
Reach Reid Wright at [email protected]