Windsor town board talks internet, watches neighbors | MyWindsorNow.com

Windsor town board talks internet, watches neighbors

James Redmond
jredmond@mywindsornow.com

Fast levitating businessman, on a road, using a laptop computer

Technology keeps changing and as increasing numbers of everyday tasks incorporate cybernetic elements, communities race to keep up.

Internet links those elements together, but slow internet speeds can leave some living in the dark ages, cut off from the information people need to do their jobs, compete school assignments or participate in the growing digital world.

In their Monday night work session, Windsor town board members opted to watch and learn, asking staff to stay apprised of infrastructure and internet service provider developments while paying attention to what neighboring communities do.

During the work session, staff brought the elected officials up to speed on what is and isn't known about Windsor's internet infrastructure and what options the town could take if they wanted to get the municipality involved in the internet business.

High-speed, or broadband, internet has become a necessity. And throughout northern Colorado, municipalities have started looking for, and in some cases acting on, ways to make sure their businesses and residents don't get left behind.

"A lot of the businesses in Windsor rely on Comcast or CenturyLink for their high speed internet today (and) the major problem with it is the availability," said Windsor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michal Connors. "It is not available in all parts of the community. Also, during peak hours it substantially slows down."

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Most businesses today cannot operate without some type of internet access. Many modern customers use credit cards or fast pay options and businesses need internet to process those payments.

Already many Windsor business voice concerns about slow speeds during peak hours without enough bandwidth to provide free Wi-Fi for their customers, Connors said. And if the internet effectively stops, it shuts down a Windsor business.

"To remain competitive in the large employer sector I feel a higher speed broadband is required," she said. "This is one of the amenities that employers are looking for when the locate to a new community."

Only a handful of companies offer internet service in Windsor — and even fewer offer to sell speeds that qualify as broadband. The Federal Communication Commissions defines broadband as an internet service that can download at least 25 megabits per second and upload at least three megabits per second.

What kind of problem, if any, that constitutes isn't precisely known. Windsor officials would need to conduct a study to compare Windsor's internet speeds and infrastructure to other areas while analyzing the town's providers, services, prices and networks.

The study is needed because while some of the faster companies might advertise download speeds up to 75 megabits per second, in reality many customers and businesses report much lower speeds most of the time, Windsor IT Manager Cody Groves told the town board at the Monday work session.

If town officials want to get involved in changing that, they roughly have three options, said Assistant to the Town Manager Kelly Unger. As a municipality Windsor could incentivize broadband development; take on a wholesale role of building the infrastructure and leasing it to companies to sell on their own; or become a full-fledged utility provider in its own right.

However, those last two options would require approval from voters because of Colorado 2005's Senate Bill 152. That legislation prevents local governments entering into the broadband business without voter approval.

More than 160 Colorado towns and cities already passed exemptions to that legislation, Unger said. Longmont, for example, passed an exemption in 2011 and has since started its own, city-owned and operated internet service provider.

Fort Collins voters passed an exemption in 2015, however, the city officials have not yet declared exactly what they will do with the exemption, she said. Fort Collins documents project start up costs for a utility to weigh in at about $125 million.

Greeley officials have discussed their broadband situation as well, opting to start with a community needs survey to find out what residents and businesses want and need.

"I think we're in a pretty good spot," said Town Manager Kelly Arnold. "Because we can watch."

Bits and Bytes

Although related bits and bytes are different things.

A bit is the basic binary unit of digital computing. Bits, kilobits, megabits and gigabits are all units of bits and most commonly refer to data transmission speeds for services like internet.

When referring to bits, abbreviations use a lowercase ‘b’ such as Mb for megabit, or Mbps for megabits per second.

There are 1,024 bits in a kilobit, 1,024 kilobits in a megabit and so on.

A byte on the other hand — as in bytes, kilobytes, megabytes and gigabytes — is eight times the size of a bit, and bytes usually refer to the size of data — like how big a file is — or to data storage capacity.

When abbreviations refer to bytes they use a capitol ‘B.’ For example megabytes and gigabytes are abbreviated MB and GB respectively.

There are 1,024 bytes in a kilobyte, 1,024 kilobyte in a megabyte and so on.