A Subscriber for WildBlue

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David and Theresa Tuttles of Strasburg, Colo., made history Thursday.

They became WildBlue Communications Inc.’s first customer for its high-speed-data service when the company installed a 26-inch satellite dish and modem at their home.

“This is going to be so awesome,” customer Theresa Tuttle, a professional photographer, said in a WildBlue press release.

To mark the occasion, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens proclaimed May 30-June 4 to be “Rural Broadband Week.”

Denver-based WildBlue had originally planned to launch its broadband-satellite service in 2002, but the rollout was delayed by financing problems.

WildBlue is targeting rural areas without access to cable-modem and digital-subscriber-line service, offering consumers three tiers of service. For 49.95, subscribers get download speeds up of to 512 kilobits per second; the $69.95 tier offers speeds up to 1 megabit per second; and the 1.5-mpbs package costs $79.95 monthly.

“WildBlue is excited to begin smashing the digital divide in rural communities across the country," CEO Tom Moore said in a prepared statement. "This is a truly historic moment as we make affordable broadband available to virtually every home and small office across the United States."

EchoStar Communications Corp. -- which has long sought to offer its customers a high-speed-data service that would help it to compete against broadband products from its cable competitors -- was an original investor in WildBlue, which scrapped plans for an initial public offering in 2001.

EchoStar wrote down its investment in WildBlue in 2002, and the direct-broadcast satellite company said at the time that it wouldn’t put any more money into the company.

Investors in WildBlue include the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, Intelsat Ltd., Liberty Media Corp. and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Cable veteran and Liberty senior vice president Anthony Werner sits on WildBlue’s board of directors.

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