Forget surfing the web. Todays Internet users want music, movies and television programs while playing games with friends around the world in real time all uses requiring some serious bandwidth.
Durangos Internet users have several options when it comes to choosing broadband service, but according to Net Index, a website that gathers data about broadband services around the world, connection speeds lag Colorados other cities.
On Wednesday, Net Index had Durangos average download speed of 5.18 megabits per second ranked 37th out of 41 Colorado cities and towns.
Durangos upload speed, averaging 0.61 Mbps, ranked 40th, just 0.02 Mbps faster than last-place Cañon City.
But Corey Bryndal, a managing partner at PacketRail Optical Networking, says its hardly an accurate representation of all of Durangos broadband service.
With most of those tests being performed by home users on Bresnans cable system, this data is woefully skewed, Bryndal said.
Bresnan sells cable broadband connections capable of download speeds of up to 8 Mbps. For an additional fee, customers can upgrade to 18 Mbps. But advertised speed doesnt necessarily translate into actual speed.
Bresnan recently was acquired for $1.3 billion by the New York-based Cablevision Systems Corp. Cablevision spokesman Jim Maiella said the cable company will continue to operate in Durango under the Bresnan name.
Maiella declined to comment about the Net Index data, but he said Durango customers can look forward to improved speeds.
Bresnan offers the best and fastest high-speed Internet service to Durango residents today, and customers will see significant speed increases in the coming months, Maiella said.
While Bresnan may be Durangos leading residential broadband provider, competitors are gaining ground.
Russ Elliott, president of Brainstorm Internet, said the problem local ISPs have faced in this largely rural area has been inadequate infrastructure.
The first problem simply is one of bringing bandwidth into the area from an outside market. That bandwidth then needs to be distributed from the central office into peoples homes, requiring extensive infrastructure investments. Elliott also said it costs far more for rural ISPs to provide customers the same services their urban counterparts take for granted.
If youre in Denver, that (Internet) hub is sitting right there, he said. Elliott said Brainstorm contracts with the companies FastTrack Communications and PacketRail to bring bandwidth into Durango. Both companies own and operate fiber-optic lines, piping in bandwidth from Denver and Albuquerque.
With both companies supplying Brainstorms bandwidth, Elliott said his company has built a backbone for Brainstorms network to the tune of about 700 Mbps, and even at peak usage, he said his network of 15,000 customers rarely exceeds 300 or 400 Mbps.
Even with this bandwidth, the company still must distribute broadband service to individual customers, a process that usually involves paying fees to another company to use its infrastructure. For Brainstorm, that means paying Qwest Communications for the use of phone lines.
But advances in wireless technology are allowing Brainstorm to own more of its own infrastructure and push service into previously untapped rural markets at a lower cost.
Brainstorms wireless technology allows it to achieve download speeds of up to 7 Mbps, though Elliot said technological advances likely will increase speeds significantly.
Brainstorm also takes advantage of open-access networks constructed by local governments.
Supported by the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments and a recently awarded $3 million state grant, a number of communities will be linked by a fiber-optic network. The network not only will serve government agencies but also will be open to anyone who wants to buy in.
As they continue to build out that network ... were going to follow them and continue to increase services, Elliott said. We can use their infrastructure and do some very special things for the region.
Plans already are in the works to connect Hillcrest and Skyridge in Durango to a fiber-optic line, increasing broadband speeds in the neighborhood of 20 Mbps. Other areas Brainstorm has targeted for fiber connections include Bodo Park, Mercy Regional Medical Center and Three Springs, much of downtown and, in the more distant future, north toward the Animas Valley.
Good things are coming in our rural market. It just takes a little bit longer, Elliott said.
New to the market, PacketRails fiber-optic line brings an additional 320 gigabits of bandwidth into Durango. In other words, thats 320,000 Mbps, all via a single glass wire approximately the width of a strand of hair.
We have built a ridiculous amount of capacity into our fiber facilities using advanced optical technology, Bryndal said. At the same time, we exploit this same technology to lower our costs and pass the savings on to our customers.
PacketRail sells its bandwidth to local ISPs as well as large businesses and institutions. The company recently was awarded a contract to provide Fort Lewis College with broadband service.