Provo plans to jump on the high-speed Internet

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    By Anne-Marie Mickelsen

    Provo City is considering implementing a city-wide $40 million network of high-speed, fiber-optic lines.

    “Our intent is to build a big enough communication pipeline that we would be able to link the off-campus students to the University and provide them with high-speed Internet access,” Kevin Garlick, director of the Provo Energy Department, said.

    The telecommunications network would link businesses and residents with phone lines, cable television, high-speed Internet and high-speed business networks.

    “One plus for students is the telecommunications portion of it,” Garlick said.

    If four students are living in an apartment with only one phone line, the phone system would give distinctive rings for each roommate. There would be separate voicemail boxes along with several other features, Garlick said.

    When the proposal was presented to council members on Tuesday, they were cautious about the idea.

    “I question if this will keep us going for the next 10 to 15 years, or is there something around the corner?” Councilman Paul Warner said.

    In response to the question Garlick said, “I’m not a technology guru, but unless Star Trek technology takes off, this will be the technology of the future.”

    Garlick believes the city has a responsibility to move the community forward to the 21st century.

    “An indication of whether we are key economic movers is if the community is linked to the information super-highway,” Garlick said.

    Many businesses in Utah Valley already have the ability to run high-speed business communication networks, Garlick said.

    “Several existing companies like USWest have cherry-picked the most lucrative and profitable businesses and not focused on the residents,” Garlick said. “The services provided would be available to competing users in order to help keep prices down.”

    Paul Venturella, the telecommuncations director for Provo, said there are seven companies that are franchised with Provo city to provide telecommunication services.

    Qwest, NextLink and AT&T are a few of the companies that provide this service to the Provo community, he said.

    Venturella said the main problem the city faces is finding enough pole space to establish the telecommunications network.

    Dan Hammari, a senior from Boise, Idaho, majoring in Family History, said he would be ecstatic if Provo would step in and facilitate high-speed Internet access.

    Hammari and his roommates have been trying to get high-speed Internet access in their apartment since 1998.

    They checked with TCI cable to find out about getting a cable modem, and they told them the modems would be available in three months. Two years later, they still have no cable modem.

    Hammari also checked with USWest about getting a DSL line, but he lives in off-campus housing, which is run by the off-campus telecommunications agency, and the cost to add an additional line was too expensive.

    “Basically, we gave up. My roommates and I have waited over two years for high-speed Internet access, and have only received vague promises for the future,” Hammari said, “Anything the city can do to help would be great.”

    According to Garlick the proposed network would cost anywhere from $30 to $40 million. The money would be raised through a revenue bond that would be paid for by users on the system. Those not using the services would not have to pay.

    “It’s about Main Street, not Wall Street,” Garlick said.

    Completion of the project would take about 6 months from the start of construction, which will probably not start for another two to three years.

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