ARCHIVED  December 1, 1995

Coop aims to expand Internet’s appeal

Not every company offering to connect your business with the Internet and World Wide Web seeks to make money.
Some of the Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, “work together to provide inexpensive and reliable dedicated Internet access for themselves and others,´ said Jamie Gulden, president of the year-old Northern Colorado Internet Cooperative Association, better known as “the Coop.”
The current five members and their founders, businessmen Tom Higley and Greg Redder, decided to do a “better job and give back any profits to those who join.”
With zero employees — all five members who put up the money are volunteers — the Coop is based on the Boulder Colorado Internet Cooperative model.
“We’ve taken what they’ve done and modified ours for what we see happening in this area,” Gulden said.
The members — Total Data Solutions, Info2000, First Principals Inc., Biographics and Electravision — all operate out of Fort Collins, although Gulden hopes to branch out to other areas.
“We didn’t expect to keep up with Boulder, but we’ve had a great response,” he said.
FortNet, the biggest provider in Northern Colorado with 800 customers, has also agreed to become a member.
“Now that they have a commercial service, they need to improve their bandwidth. But we’ve had to turn them and other businesses away until U S West gets our T1 line in,” Gulden explained. A T1 line is a dedicated connection to the Internet. The Coop has been waiting for the line since August and hopes to have it by early November. After that, Gulden plans a growth rate of 10 percent per month.
Who are potential members?
“A member can be one person or a national corporation with hundreds or thousands of employees,” Gulden noted. “Most are businesses,” because individuals who don’t use their connection at least eight hours a day “will find offerings from other providers better meet their needs.”
Startup costs range from $1,200 to $3,100, depending on what’s needed, with monthly charges of $100 to $800 (based on service level).
“We’re charging more now so we don’t overload our lines or run out of money,” Gulden said.
Online hours are free, and “we’re geared toward reducing cost and maintenance requirements. Our rates are lower than other providers amortized over the first year of operation,” Gulden said. “Other providers pay this up-front cost and make it back by charging higher monthly rates over the entire life of the service.”
The monthly fees cover the capital equipment that may be used by other members, and pay for contracted technical support and mailing information packets to new members.
The coop isn’t for everyone. You must be technically self-sufficient and be able to configure and maintain your equipment without Coop support, much like a system administrator in a company. Many Colorado ISPs use Coops for their T1 and ISDN telephone lines instead of having to maintain their own. They then resell the Coop’s services to their own customers, providing the support individuals may need. Similarly, businesses may have their own router and server but lease a dedicated phone line from them.
“We love the Coop,´ said AdreEl Brunson, vice president of Electravison Corp., which makes business-to-business marketing tools, videos and CD-ROMs. “We had dialup connections for years but decided we needed a full-time connection and a place for our Web site. We researched what was available out there and found the Coop to be economically the best deal going. With a commercial ISP, you’re not in control of the situation. They can be bought. The rules change. But by being a part owner, we have control over the technical support. We have a vote and involvement with the direction it takes.”
Besides, Brunson explained, “I like to keep the money in Fort Collins. Most of the ISPs are out of the city.”
To ISPs, there is a definite benefit of using the Coop for their needs. “The Internet is really just an interconnection of ISPs, so there’s nothing less valuable in an ISP having a Coop connection to the Internet rather than having their own, presumably through a larger provider like MCI or Sprint,´ said Boulder Coop president Barb Dijker. “ISPs that get service via the Coop are in a much better competitive position because they have lower expenses without compromising reliability.”
As far as competition goes, Gulden remains unfazed. “We’re not here to make huge amounts of money,” he said. “We just want to increase Internet availability for the local community. Potential Coop resellers also, in a sense, will compete with us, but that’s just fine. We believe that healthy competition fosters a diversity of services and keeps prices low, to make the Internet more affordable to everyone.”
To find out more about the Coop, visit its Web site at http://www.ncic.net, or send e-mail to Jamie Gulden, jamison@fortnet.org. Of course, you can always call him at 970-493-2716.

Not every company offering to connect your business with the Internet and World Wide Web seeks to make money.
Some of the Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, “work together to provide inexpensive and reliable dedicated Internet access for themselves and others,´ said Jamie Gulden, president of the year-old Northern Colorado Internet Cooperative Association, better known as “the Coop.”
The current five members and their founders, businessmen Tom Higley and Greg Redder, decided to do a “better job and give back any profits to those who join.”
With zero employees — all five members who put up the money are…

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