United Effort Lays Groundwork For Broadband


Internet surfers will soon be blazing through the World Wide Web at lightning speeds, if efforts are successful to bring broadband service to the Rim country.

"(Broadband service) will mean faster downloads; faster transfers; opening up telecommuting opportunities; bringing outside money to Payson; and paving the way to recruit high-tech businesses," said Scott Flake, executive director of the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation. "For many of these businesses, having access to broadband communications is a requirement for relocation."

The community's part in this effort is participating in a survey, and returning it by Aug. 15. Flake said the survey will ensure the needs of residents and businesses are included in developing the plan to bring state-of-the-art telecommunications to the area.

The surveys are available at Flake's office, 600 S. Green Valley Parkway; at the county and town offices; the Payson Public Library; Gila Community College; and online at the county website, www.gilacountyaz.gov or co.gila.az.us

Money from the Arizona Department of Commerce is funding the project.

"Gila and Pinal counties recently received funding to develop a strategic telecommunications plan," Flake said. "The purpose of this plan is to lay out a strategy for providing a state-of-the-art telecommunications system ... Implementation of this strategy would mean reduced cost for access to high-speed telecommunications services such as the Internet, distance education, telemedicine, video conferencing and telecommuting options."

The money is being used for a consulting group from Colorado to do the groundwork, Manweiler Telecom Consulting, LLC of Denver and Lakewood, Colo.

Florine Raitano, the most experienced among Manweiler's staff, with about 18 years in the business, was in Payson recently working on the project.

She said the company has been doing these projects for about 11 years in Colorado.

"The project includes a needs assessment and infrastructure survey," Raitano said. "A market analysis is then done to make the numbers work and a technology plan is developed. The plan addresses what systems will best meet the needs identified -- fiber optics, cable or wireless systems. We need a broad distribution of the surveys and a very high rate of return."

She said the plan is an actual document the counties will use for getting bids on the systems from the private sector.

"Once the plan is complete it can be used to obtain potential funding from grants and to contract with a private sector partner to develop much-needed infrastructure," Flake said.

He said this is a project the state has been working on for about two years. In addition to Gila and Pinal counties getting help from Manweiler and the state, Yuma County also will have a study conducted, Raitano said.

Manweiler has a team of four specialists working on the project. Kevin Manweiler, the company's principal, is an engineer. Working in the field with Raitano, a rural development and health care industry specialist, are Jerry McCarthy, who helps with the health care industry work, but primarily directs his efforts toward discovering the needs of educational institutions and libraries, and Gail Shea, who specializes in working with the business community, Raitano said.

The group has until December to finish its work and do a report for the county; it is expected the project will be finished in late October or early November, Raitano said.

The company has done about 12 of the projects in Colorado, she said, with eight of those resulting in expanded services that brought broadband into rural communities.

Contact Flake for more information at (928) 468-6659, or e-mail: scottflake@cybertrails.com.

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