Enthusiasm builds for Nevada County FTTH project, hope is money will follow

by Steve Blum • , , ,

A standing room only crowd turned out in Nevada City on Thursday evening to celebrate the kick-off of a $28 million fiber-to-the-home project. As proposed, it would bring a full gigabit – up and down – to nearly 3,000 homes and hundreds of businesses in Nevada County. Hosted by Spiral Internet, the gala was intended to light a fire under the Bright Fiber build proposed nearly 2 years ago for a big grant and a (relatively) small loan from the California Advanced Services Fund.

Submitted in February, 2013, the application stalled because of opposition from existing Internet service providers, including Comcast, Suddenlink, Verizon and, crucially, a local fixed wireless company – SmarterBroadband – that had received a federal stimulus grant several years ago, but didn’t complete the required work.

Originally proposed for a $16.6 million grant and $500,000 loan, the grant amount has been trimmed back to $15.2 million in response to those challenges. The balance would come from private investors. California Public Utilities Commission staff are still reviewing it, though.

Spiral CEO John Paul was optimistic that the project would soon be in front of commissioners and approved.

Speakers at the event included representatives from Kansas City, where Google is building a gigabit network neighborhood by neighborhood, Anne Neville, the director of the federal department of commerce’s state broadband initiative, and Blair Levin, previously the author of the FCC’s national broadband plan and now with the Brookings Institute.

“The gigabit network is the commons, it’s something that we’ll all share”, Levin said. “We buy broadband as a community”.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted with the Bright Fiber CASF application, among others, so I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.