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.