Eastern California businesses challenged by booming bandwidth demand

25 January 2015 by Steve Blum
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You got a job to do.

“Five of you can take out my Internet and I have 93 rooms”, Dan Spurgeon, general manager of the Marriott Springhill Suites in Ridgecrest said. That’s despite his recent 50 Mbps upgrade, which he will soon need to re-double. He was one of several local leaders speaking at the Eastern Sierra Connect Regional Broadband Consortium conference in Ridgecrest on Thursday.

Rapidly growing demand for more bandwidth – 40% year after year according to Spurgeon – is a major challenge for businesses and government agencies in eastern California. The Digital 395 project is now lit, but last mile and enterprise facilities have to be upgraded to make full use of it.

The China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in Ridgecrest, for example, is still doing teleconferencing via ancient ISDN circuits (as well as having modern, fat pipes). “Ageing fiber optic infrastructure” on the base is “nearing end of life, it was installed in the early 80s, the mid 80s”, said Justin French, an IT executive there. “We need to look at the next five to ten years”.

Fixing it isn’t just a matter of finding the money. It’s also about taking down barriers that block construction. “I don’t need red tape”, said Kishor Joshi, president of Pertexa, a health care IT consulting firm.

It’s a problem that needs to addressed in Sacramento, said Kimberly Maevers, president of the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance, a local economic development organisation. “We have to demand [California Environmental Quality Act] reform so the IBEW and any other special interest group can’t come in and hold us hostage”.

The only option is to build, and use, better infrastructure, said Eric Bruen, who runs the Desert Valleys Federal Credit Union. “If you’re not moving as fast as your consumer, you will be left in the dust”.