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.
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: