Digital 395 proposes Inyo County FTTH expansion

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

Four more remote towns in the eastern California desert are in line for gigabit-class fiber-to-the-home service, thanks to the Digital 395 middle mile network that stretches more than 500 miles down the east side of the Sierra Nevada, from Reno to Barstow.

Inyo Networks – one of the companies behind the Digital 395 project – is asking the California Public Utilities Commission for $4.4 million to extend its middle fiber another 20 miles, reaching from Olancha to Keeler and Darwin, and to build FTTH systems in those three communities, plus the nearby town of Cartago. It’s part of an effort by Inyo County to bring fiber-based broadband service to residents and businesses.

At first glance it looks expensive: there are a total of 265 homes in the four communities, and not all of those are occupied. Darwin actually has more houses than people – census data shows 46 housing units versus a population of 43. On the average, it’ll cost the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) $17,000 per home to subsidise construction. That’s a mere pittance, though, compared to the $74,000 each the CPUC approved for five homes of dubious occupancy in the Rush Creek area of Fresno County last year.

According to the project summary circulated by Inyo Networks, all the homes in the project area are unserved, which means there’s no broadband service at all. Assuming the CPUC validates that claim, that gives the project top priority for CASF money at a nominal subsidy rate of 70%, as opposed to the 60% most projects – which lean heavily towards underserved areas – get.

Tellus Venture Associates is working with Inyo Networks, via CPUC-funded regional broadband consortia, on broadband grant proposals in the current CASF round, although not the South Inyo County project. But however you slice it, I am not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.