Colorado to create statewide high-speed network

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"A Digital Rebirth"

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has awarded a $37 million contract that will create

a high-speed, fiber-optic network connecting all state offices and schools.

The contract requires that US West connect all county governments and

other major government institutions, such as schools and prisons, with broadband

services. There will also be more connection points in high-traffic areas,

such as in Denver.

"It's an initial step to make sure our most disadvantaged communities

aren't cut off from the digital technologies," said Jerry Smith, deputy

director of local affairs for the state.

The Multi-Use Network, or MNT, does not connect individual communities

or homes, although legislation passed last year attempts to address this.

The "Beanpole Bill" provided $4.8 million to unite private telecommunications

providers and have them extend their services to under-served areas. Although

the state would not own or operate the individual systems, the companies

would use the central network, Smith said.

"The idea is that the MNT is the backbone and the beanpole grows off

that backbone to the various jurisdictions in the county," Smith said. "It

can grow in separate directions, all from a central stalk."

The contract does not spell out how US West will implement the network,

Smith said, but he said he expects the company to build out from existing

fiber-optic cables. The company can also subcontract some of the work, he

said.

The contract runs for 10 years. After the network is installed, US West

will manage the system for the remaining time.

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