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Eastern Sierra consortium presents plans for building broadband out from Digital 395

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With the Digital 395 fiber optic backbone complete – running more than 500 miles from from Reno down the eastern side of California to Barstow – the focus in the region is on hooking up last mile broadband projects and extending middle connectivity to areas it doesn’t reach.

Julie Langou, the project manager for the Eastern Sierra Connect Regional Broadband Consortium, presented a plan for building out from the Digital 395 fiber route at the annual meeting of regional broadband consortia in Sacramento earlier this week.

There are several last mile projects either approved for California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) construction subsidies or under consideration in the region. In eastern Kern County, Race Telecommunications completed a last mile fiber build at the Mojave Air and Space Port, and was approved for two more in Boron and the Tehachapi area last year. It still has a grant application for FTTH systems in four small Mono County communities under consideration.

Schat.net has proposals for wireless systems in Mono and Inyo Counties, and Verizon received a grant to build out in the Crowley Lake area. Two more communities – Randsburg and Johannesburg – have been targeted as last mile priorities for the next round of CASF grants, assuming a willing applicant can be found. All except the Mojave and Tehachapi projects are more or less right on the Digital 395 system, although Verizon has its own fiber in the area that it reserves for its own use.

But Digital 395 doesn’t reach everywhere. Four communities – Twin Lakes in Mono County and Paradise, Tecopa and Homewood Canyon in Inyo – are on the consortium’s priority list as last mile projects with microwave connectivity back to the fiber route. And finally, a 30+ mile fiber middle mile extension along the Kern River Valley to Weldon is on the table. In 2009, Mediacom, a cable company with an emphasis on small towns, received a CASF grant to build out in the area, but so far has failed to meet its obligations, according to Langou. The Eastern Sierra consortium wants to see the project finished – either by Mediacom or someone else – and is looking to get additional money to bring Digital 395 connectivity to the area.