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During their March 5 council meeting, Salida City Council discussed and unanimously approved a proposed a LAN fiber optic connection for city facilities. The approval authorizes Mayor P.T. Woods to enter into an agreement with Colorado Central Telecom to connect Public Works, Steamplant, Salida Fire Department, Hot Springs Aquatic Center, police office and at the county building on Crestone Avenue and Riverside Park via single-strand and single-mode fiber-optic network.

Michael Varnum, the Steamplant director, discussed the future of LAN fiber optic connection between city facilities, and the future of free public Wi-Fi located at Riverside Park. He explained that he was asked by the mayor to look into this solution. Varnum said that several year’s of work has already been done on the project. Within the past year, the opportunity has arisen for higher speed internet to become a reality.

“The result being higher speed internet that’s adequate to run the systems that we have in place now at a number of city facilities,” Varnum said. “Colorado Central Telecom, our local area network provider, has installed fiber in the area down here.” He added that there was a digital project done by Colorado Central Telecom from the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center to the top of Tenderfoot Mountain. Fiber has been installed in the downtown as well, said Varnum.

“This brought to us a proposal to install fiber to public works,” Varnum said. “Public works’ speed is not adequate in that they… cannot transfer things back and forth. The basic situation is that the server here [at the Touber Building] holds most of the programs that we use at the pool, at the Steamplant, and public works, and the police department— so we have got to have adequate speed in and out,” said Varnum. “The proposed speeds available within the project “are incredible speeds compared to what we have right now.”

Varnum added that during a film festival at the Steamplant, films could not be downloaded fast enough to keep up with showing the films due to the slow internet. “This will also include fiber to Riverside Park, and a Wi-Fi system with access points within Riverside Park.”

In the past year, he explained, difficulties have surrounded festivals in Riverside Park due to the limited Wi-Fi, including needing Wi-Fi for entrances, the public and the vendors at the festival.

The priority will be to install Riverside Park access points that completely cover the park, said Varnum. There is also a possibility to extend out from the park depending on the required number of access points.

The Wi-Fi will be managed, and a “wall” will be put into place to control bandwidth, Varnum mentioned. He added that time on the Wi-Fi could be limited to only 45 minutes, and limiting of where users can go.

Westcliffe and Leadville offer free Wi-Fi in public area, and the city is looking at a combination of their approaches to Wi-Fi, according to Varnum. He added that there will also be an opportunity for advertising on the “splash page” where users log in, creating a small source of revenue.