Tag Archives: central sierra connect broadband consortium

Local broadband policy models presented to central Sierra policy makers

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Like it or not, convincing an incumbent provider to invest in improving broadband infrastructure in your community means putting a better deal in front of them than they can get elsewhere. Both Google and AT&T have money to spend on fiber upgrades, but not very much, relatively speaking. So they’re issuing short lists of cities, and then sitting back and waiting to see what those candidates put on the table.

Two things top their wish lists: getting permits quicker and cheaper, and access to public right of ways and real estate. I talked about how local agencies can go about doing that at Thursday’s community broadband conference in Tuolumne City, organised by the Central Sierra Connect Broadband Consortium.

Examples include the broadband policy initiatives that are moving forward in Santa Cruz County, including “dig once” rules that encourage installation of conduit anytime road construction work is done and a simple, over the counter permit process. The man responsible for those changes, Aptos supervisor Zach Friend, also spoke at the meeting – more on that later – sharing lessons learned with a roomful of elected leaders and top administrators from several central Sierra cities and counties.

Loma Linda’s experience with mandatory fiber connections in newly built homes and Watsonville’s success in mapping broadband assets and using that data to build a network also figured in the presentation.

I closed by talking about counter examples, cases where poor policy has led to even poorer broadband access, particularly Google’s experience in Overland Park, Kansas and a look at why Piedmont – one of the most affluent cities in California – has the worst broadband infrastructure in Alameda County.

Central California fiber network about to go fully operational

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An 850 mile fiber build that threads through 18 counties in central California – largely paid for by the 2009 federal broadband stimulus program – is almost done. The Central Valley Independent Network, which now does business as Vast Networks will finally be complete by the end of May, according to marketing director Mike Stewart, who gave a presentation on the project at today’s Central Sierra Connect Broadband Consortium conference in Tuolumne City.

The final gap is just to the west, along highway 108, near Jamestown.

“Once you get up here it slows down considerably”, said Stewart. Crews that could bore through 2,000 feet a day of soft dirt were barely making 100 feet in the rocky Sierra foothills ground. “We had a number of contractors just walk away, they got tired of fighting the battle”.

Just getting the environmental clearances required to start work took 14 months.

The entire system, including purchased and leased lines, reaches 2,000 miles and connects to major Internet exchanges in San Francisco and Los Angeles. It’s a joint venture between eight small, mostly rural telephone companies and the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC), which provides broadband connectivity to school districts, colleges and universities in the state.

Stewart said they’ll lease dark fiber where it’s available, but their primary offering is wholesale lit service for independent ISPs and major institutions. Initially the plan was to deliver two 1 gigabit connections to county offices of education, for redistribution to local school districts, but demand has grown so fast that those lines will be upgraded to 10 gigabits each.