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ARCHIVED  March 1, 1997

Local computer firms brave ISP arena

The onslaught continues for local Internet service providers.In just the last six months or so, Northern Colorado and Wyoming have seen a number of new players enter the field. Additionally, companies based in the Denver area are beginning to extend service to Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley and Longmont.
Although most providers bring their service online to capture a piece of the exploding general market for Internet access, some companies are taking a more targeted approach. These companies are looking toward their long-term viability by focusing on a narrower market, and firmly developing their niche now.
WebAccess, a wholly owned subsidiary of Applied Computer Technology Inc. of Fort Collins, went online in July. Bud Prentice, president of Applied Computer Technology, says it was a natural extension of his existing business.
“All Internet users use computers to get online,´ said Prentice, whose company sold 10,000 computer systems last year. “It seemed like a logical step to provide Internet access because the demographic match is 100 percent. Many of our clients asked us to offer this service.”
WebAccess began by offering service to ACT’s existing database of 35,000 clientele across the Front Range. Then, the company purchased FortNet’s customer base as well as another small provider in Colorado Springs. They serve approximately 1,500 customers so far, with more coming online daily.
“Our strategy,” Prentice said, “is to leverage our existing user base to benefit both businesses, and provide better service to our customers.”
ACT clients who purchase new computers receive a three-month trial on WebAccess. WebAccess customers receive discounts on upgrades and classes, and special deals on equipment from ACT. Customers find out about special deals through occasional e-mail messages sent to WebAccess’ membership. Plus, WebAccess subscribers can register for service at any one of ACT’s six locations online.
Prentice believes that WebAccess has a strong advantage in the marketplace because it can provide these special services to its client base. And, he notes, the company is already sustaining itself.
“Right now, there’s a big enough pie for everyone to succeed,” Prentice said, referring to the booming growth and interest in Internet access. WebAccess is planning ahead for the day when the market is saturated with providers by building in specialized customer incentives.
The Wyoming Operation, a relatively new Internet service provider in Cheyenne, also chose not to go after the general marketplace.
“There are already so many providers here who offer services to residential customers,´ said President Steve Lack, “that we felt like there was no money to be made in it.”
The Wyoming Operation provides service to business customers only, offering services ranging from basic dialup access to complex Web-site development.
Lack and his employees are from very technical backgrounds and feel they can provide the best service to businesses that need technical expertise. Although they will provide service to any business, large or small, their target clients are corporations that need complex, custom Web sites and Internet solutions.
The Wyoming Operation can assist with database-driven Web sites, secure servers, custom e-mail servers, and direct Internet connections (frame relay).
The Wyoming Operation shares office space with Westwind Computer Systems, its sister company. Westwind sells computer systems and provides services, such as computer networking, that appeal more to business clientele.
Micro Computer World, a computer retailer based in Longmont, set up an ISP for a variety of reasons, one of which was that there was no local dialup provider in Longmont.
“A lot of our local customers complained that they had to dial up through Boulder and Denver providers,´ said Randy Henry, manager of Micro Computer World. “Longmont is one of those in-between towns where calling Denver is long distance, but calling Boulder isn’t. Residents wanted a local dialup provider geared toward them.”
Micro Computer World decided to partner with a Berkeley, Calif.-based Internet service provider called LandMINDS. They found LandMINDS through a manager in Micro Computer World’s Loveland store who had worked with LandMINDS’ chief executive. The companies met and agreed upon a plan of action.
“We provide the local dialup connection,” Henry said, “and the client gets billed through LandMINDS offices in Berkeley.”
Although customers get service locally, they still have to call Berkeley via an 800 number to get customer support. Since December, local dialup service has been available in Longmont, Loveland, and Fort Collins. Greeley will come online within the next three months, if U S West is able to install the necessary lines.
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The onslaught continues for local Internet service providers.In just the last six months or so, Northern Colorado and Wyoming have seen a number of new players enter the field. Additionally, companies based in the Denver area are beginning to extend service to Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley and Longmont.
Although most providers bring their service online to capture a piece of the exploding general market for Internet access, some companies are taking a more targeted approach. These companies are looking toward their long-term viability by focusing on a narrower market, and firmly developing their niche now.
WebAccess, a wholly owned…

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