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Vail’s free Internet might cost you

Daily file photoCenturyTel asked the town to eliminate the free wireless for East Vail and West Vail, but the town didn't agree to do that.
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VAIL ” CenturyTel has scaled back the free portion of Vail’s wireless Internet network, and wanted to ax it altogether for East Vail and West Vail.

Last month, a representative from CenturyTel asked the Town Council for permission to eliminate the free service for outlying areas. The council nixed the idea.

“They wanted to boost the (paid) subscribers for residential areas,” said Ron Braden, information technology director for the town.



CenturyTel first needs to improve their coverage, said Councilman Mark Gordon.

“If we are able to boost up the amount of coverage in the town, which I think is way too low, I think at that point I would entertain the idea of changing the free service,” Gordon said.



Upgrades to the network continue, CenturyTel official say. But the company has invested $500,000 more in the network than they originally anticipated, one official said at the meeting.

“We want to make sure we cover our costs and make sure we can continue to reinvest in the network,” said CenturyTel spokeswoman Kim Valiquette said.

There are two prongs of the service ” a slower, free service and a faster, paid service.



The company has already scaled back the free service, limiting it to one hour per day. When the service began in 2006, users could log in in one-hour increments for the free service.

“Like any service, at some point you have to start charging for it,” Valiquette said.

Thousands have logged on to the service. In a five-month period, there were 11,049 users, with more than half of them, 6,251, using the free service, Braden said.

Still, there remains some disappointment about the service.

Sal Bertolone, a part-time resident who owns a condo in West Vail near Conoco, said the service has been poor.

“Once in a while, if the wind is blowing in the right direction and if you are in a certain room upstairs near the top of the garage, you might get a signal,” he said. “Most of the time, you can’t.”

He’ll sometimes drive to other parts of Vail so he can pick up a signal, he said.

But Lori Martinez, manager of the Flying Burrito in Lionshead, said customers seem happy with CenturyTel’s wireless.

“They come in, sit down, drink coffee and work on their computer,” she said.

The town didn’t pay for the network to be installed, but it did allow CenturyTel to use municipal structures such as light poles and bus shelters to mount the equipment.

Braden said he doesn’t think CenturyTel is losing money on the network, but the company would perhaps like to see more revenue.

“I would classify it as ‘Not as good as they hoped,'” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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