Scoop: Optimism grows for 1G internet in our county

Proposed Bright Fiber Network

Proposed Bright Fiber Network

Optimism for an ultra-fast 1 gigabit internet and data speed via fiber optic called the Bright Fiber Network to serve 3,000 customers in our western county is growing, Sierra Foothills Report has learned. It comes as other broadband projects for locals — one called Central Valley Next Generation Broadband and the other, Smarter Broadband — also are forging ahead.

A direct-to-the-door, one gigabit per second service would put our community on par with few urban areas with access to this kind of speed — 100 to 400 times faster than what most of us are used to in the Sierra and foothills.

Most important, it also creates the infrastructure for attracting new businesses and retaining existing ones — a longtime economic development goal that recently has been reiterated in the City of Grass Valley, the County Economic Resource Council and elsewhere. A 1G would help expand our existing high-tech hub, both for marketing and practical purposes. Think of a “We’re 1G” campaign! It would create some real buzz.

Some tangible indication about funding for the Bright Fiber Network  could come this fall from agencies such as the California Advanced Services Fund, which promotes deployment of high-quality advanced communications to Californians. It was established by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Local 1G gathering in the works

A local one gigabit gathering in our community, with out-of-town speakers, also is in the works to showcase the benefits this fall, we have learned. A possible date is October 30 at Miners Foundry in Nevada City. Cities such as Austin and Kansas City, for example, are benefiting from the ultra-fast internet speed, thanks to Google and others, and we could benefit from their wisdom.

Though no funding decision has been made on the Bright Fiber project, the progress is significant.

"Road trip"!

“Road trip”!

A group including project leader John Paul of Spiral Internet, County Supervisor Nate Beason, Chief Information Officer Steve Monaghan, Sierra Business Council President Steve Frisch, Economic Resource Council Executive Director Jon Gregory and ERC board member and Nevada City Council Member Robert Bergman, among others, recently visited the USDA Rural Utility Service office in Davis and the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco to make a strong pitch about the local broadband project.

“Unfortunately the Bright Fiber project is caught up in a bureaucrat glitch and stalled, which motivated nine people from western Nevada County to make the trek to San Francisco and say, ‘Hey, we matter up here and we are ready to go!'” Frisch wrote on the ERC website.

The hope is that the group helped get the federal and state agencies who are responsible for the funding to support the county’s 1G project.

As an aside, I’m thrilled to see this kind of cooperation, along with a “road trip” to the Coast. It is redolent of the successful “Save the Bridgeport Bridge” campaign. Too often we’re caught up in an isolationist mindset in our community. Worse, and I’m sorry to say this, we’re “all hat and no cattle” on some of our ventures; that is, long on hubris but short on execution.

To be sure, the 1G project has challenges. One example: Bright Fiber project is a 26-square mile subset of the territory that another project called the Smarter Broadband project would serve. The “fixed wireless” Smarter Broadband project already has been awarded $2.5 million in federal stimulus funds to expand across the western county. The 1G is much faster, however.

The  message from our local broadband experts, economic-development leaders and “electeds” to the fed and state officials was that there is ROOM FOR BOTH. The funding request is for a $16.6 million grant and a $500,000 loan, according to Bright Fiber’s proposal.

There are other benefits too. “The project will utilize the middle-mile infrastructure and help fulfill the last-mile connection goals of the ARRA and CASF-funded Central Valley Next Generation Broadband Infrastructure Project,” the proposal reads.

“This $60M Central Valley Next Generation Broadband Infastructure Project was funded by the Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunities program and is building a middle-mile fiber optic network across 18 California counties and will initially connect our two local high schools (NU and Bear River) and Madelyn Helling library with 1Gbs Internet broadband connections,” according to the county.

“The open access network will then be leveraged and used by local broadband providers as a source for wholesale affordable Internet bandwidth that they can then resell and provide via their last-mile services to local residents and businesses.”

An update on this intenet “freeway” project, stalled due to some construction challenges such as “construction challenges due to rocky terrain,” is expected soon.

“Nevada County Connected is a fiber-to-the-premise last-mile project to be located in western Nevada County, California in an ‘underserved’ contiguous area that is rural, geographically diverse, and heavily forested,” the Bright Fiber project proposal said. “The project will encompass 26.2 square miles, pass 3,214 premises, and consist of 150 miles of construction in existing rights-of-way. Each premise passed will have the capacity for symmetrical 1 Gbps Internet access speeds over an active ethernet network. The project will utilize the middle-mile infrastructure and help fulfill the last-mile connection goals of the ARRA and CASF-funded Central Valley Next Generation Broadband Infrastructure Project.”

For context, here’s a video about Google’s 1G effort in Kansas City. Nevada City also sought to be a Google 1G city but wasn’t selected:

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Race deserves more attention, not less — in our community and elsewhere

“Many white Americans say they are fed up with the coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. A plurality of whites in a recent Pew survey said that the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves,” Nicholas Kristof writes in this morning’s The New York Times. “Bill O’Reilly of Fox News reflected that weariness, saying: ‘All you hear is grievance, grievance, grievance, money, money, money.’ Indeed, a 2011 study by scholars at Harvard and Tufts found that whites, on average, believed that anti-white racism was a bigger problem than anti-black racism.

“Yes, you read that right!” Instead, he concludes, after Ferguson, “a starting point is for those of us in white America to wipe away any self-satisfaction about racial progress,” Nicholas Kristof Yes, the progress is real, but so are the challenges. The gaps demand a wrenching, soul-searching excavation of our national soul, and the first step is to acknowledge that the central race challenge in America today is not the suffering of whites.”

Racism in our community

Racist incidents have been discussed in our community. I first noticed this posting on Facebook by a reporter for The Union, Ivan Natividad, some weeks ago, and now I notice it has become a column. “According to my father in-law, a couple of weeks ago he took my 2-year-old son, his wife, cousin and two nieces to Edwards Crossing to enjoy the river. As my family began to cross over some rocks to get to the shaded side of the river, they encountered a couple sunbathing,” Ivan wrote.

“The couple began to yell obscenities at my family, trying to discourage them from crossing. They threatened to sick their dog on my family if they didn’t leave, yelling a racial slur, then demanding them to go to another part of the river. To avoid conflict, my family walked away, but were so disturbed by the altercation that they left the river and drove back to my house.

“My father-in-law, who is of Chinese and Korean descent, said that it was the first time he had ever encountered racism in his more than 30 years of living in this country. I, myself, have had a different experience.”

“As someone new to the area, I was also discouraged. Does this happen to people of color in this county a lot?”

Well, it happens, that’s for sure. And it gets debated:

“Grass Valley not a safe place for people of all races”

In 2011, a letter in The Union “Grass Valley not a safe place for people of all races” from a Yuba City resident rekindled a debate about local racism. “My sisters and I planned a 65th birthday party for my mom,” it read. “We reserved a spot at Condon Park for June 11. We had family from Utah and Southern California. My family’s heritage is made up of Caucasian, Mexican and African American.While the kids were playing at the skate park, they were harassed by some of the town’s local teenagers.”

“I was saddened to read that the recent racist event at Condon Park was called an ‘isolated event’ by the city’s mayor,” said a follow-up letter from a Nevada City resident. “It is well known that our county is less than tolerant. Several years ago there was an incident at the bus stop in Grass Valley, where two women felt incredibly threatened by several individuals.”

Negro Creek in our county

In 2011, a racist name for a creek in our county was changed by a federal agency to “negro,” but some resident weren’t satisfied that was a fix — and it received national attention. “Emily Bernard, a professor at the University of Vermont who wrote an essay titled: “Teaching the N-Word,” said that “Negro” has — at the very least — fallen from fashion,” as the Los Angeles Times reported. “To many people, it is offensive.

“‘It’s not the N-word, but it hearkens back to a time of segregation,’ said Bernard, who is black. ‘To say keeping it as the name of a place is to honor history is ignoring the history at the heart of this word.'”

In the end, the Board of Supervisors voted to keep the name “Negro Creek.” “In a letter,  the supervisors said that they did not “view the word ‘Negro’ as pejorative, but as an objective term used commonly in the past as the terms ‘African American’ and ‘Black’ are used today.” The letter went on to explain that supervisors were opting to keep the name as is in order to preserve the history of black miners in the Gold Rush era.”

Though uncomfortable, it’s important to continue exploring the issue of racism, in our community and elsewhere. We can learn from each experience and become more tolerant.

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Cal Bears singing a different tune this season?

I went to undergraduate school at Cal and to graduate school at Northwestern, and the two teams were playing each other today to kick off the college football season.

I was only half interested, however, thanks to the great outdoor weather and both teams’ football “legacy.”

When I went to Northwestern, the football team was nicknamed “Northworsten” or the “Mildcats,” for the mascot the Wildcat. For its part, Cal hasn’t been to the Rose Bowl since 1959. We did go to the Rose Bowl in 1996 to watch Northwestern play USC. (USC won 41-32).

Last year Cal finished 1-11 and 0-9 in the Pac-12. Northwestern finished 5-7 and 1-7 in the Big Ten.

In today’s matchup, Cal held on to upset Northwestern 31-24.

Cal plays Sacramento St. next before it starts the conference games. An informal student poll predicts Cal will win five games this season. We’ll see, but it’s an encouraging start.

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The Night Stalkers

I’ve been cyberstalked this week for writing about the new Union publisher’s politics — conservative.

It got worse when I mentioned former publisher Jeff Ackerman’s column this week out of the Roseburg, Ore., community newspaper, titled, “It’s time to put your leadership before your golf game, Commander in Chief.” It was similar to one that ran in The Union newspaper this week, also bashing Obama.

And to make matters worse, I dared to post a press release from Jim Firth, a Democrat who is running for Grass Valley City Council.

“The local politics are so nasty because the stakes are so small.”

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Mountain House Books in Nevada City named a “favorite local bookstore” by Chronicle Books in S.F.

From the blog of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

One of the best parts about working for the S.F. Chronicle in the ’80s and ’90s was its Chronicle books operation. We enjoy their publishing taste with titles such as Tartine Book No. 3 on the Tartine Bakery & Co. or Cowgirl Creamery Cooks, among others. At the annual holiday parties, at places such as the De Young Museum, staffers received some of the books gift wrapped.

Now Mountain House Books on Broad Street in Nevada City is featured on a list of “favorite local bookstores.” Details here:

“Here at Chronicle Books, we’re inspired by the enduring magic of books, and are always looking for more ways to share that magic,” according to its blog this week.

“Well, what better place to breathe in the magic of books than in our our favorite local bookstores? We can spend hours lingering among shelves, combing for new treasures…and could wax poetic on the charm, importance, and beauty of bookstores for hours. But instead of doing that, we’ll point all book and bookstore-lovers to the birth of a new hashtag: #ThisIsMyBookstore.

“Each week, we’ll feature a photo tagged with #ThisIsMyBookstore on our Instagram, and will compile them all in a monthly post as our continued ode to beautiful bookstores around the world. Here are some staff submissions below, including San Francisco’s iconic City Lights.

“Mountain House Books: Located in a gold rush town, this book store has an ‘honesty box’ on the front porch. Any book on the shelf is $2, you take what you want, and drop $2 in the box. We love fun quirks like that!”

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Penn Valley hosting 4H to Piehole Banquet

Western Gateway Park in Penn Valley

Western Gateway Park in Penn Valley

Editor’s note: The new parody website NCScooper can bring a smile. Here’s an example:

“By Bored Georgeman

“Local representatives of the proposed 51st State of Jefferson will host the first annual 4H to Piehole Banquet at Penn Valley’s Western Gateway Park on Sunday September 6th.

“The banquet is a fundraiser to benefit the Nevada County chapter of the State of Jefferson Declaration Committee. The cost is $30 per plate. The Master of Ceremonies is local conservative Brock Whalen. Several dozen park tables will be arranged in the shape of the letters U-S-A. The main course includes meat from many local animals raised and sold through the Nevada County 4-H Youth Development program. The rest of the food will be sourced locally from Grocery Outlet Bargain

Some food will be sourced locally from Grocery Outlet

Some food will be sourced locally from Grocery Outlet


State of Jefferson flags, T-shirts, hats, and other merchandise will be available for purchase. After dinner there will be a silent auction for power tools, landscaping equipment, truck tires, and appliances. Please leave vegetarians and Nevada City friends at home.”

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California groundwater regulations head to Gov. Brown for expected approval

“California could soon become the last state in the West to regulate water pulled from beneath the earth, with the Legislature on Friday advancing an unprecedented groundwater-management strategy,” the Sacramento Bee is reporting.

“The Legislature passed the three-bill package after lengthy debate about whether state government should oversee pumping from the water table. Lawmakers argued over the long-term fate of California’s water supply as a severe drought puts water scarcity at the forefront of public consciousness.

“’Every single member on this floor recognizes that we’ve been overdrafting our groundwater not just in the last year, not just since the drought started, but for decades,’ said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento. ‘Proponents know it, and opponents concede it. The question is not what will happen if we act, the question is what are the consequences if we fail to act?’

“But critics from both parties said the legislation would upend more than a century of water law and create another layer of bureaucracy. They said the measures threatened to make a bad drought situation worse by restricting farmers and other property owners’ ability to pump water to help make up for sharp reductions in surface water.”

The rest of the article is here.

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