Federally Funded Projects
In early 2010, two broadband projects were funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will have impact in Nevada County.
This $66M project provides a redundant fiber-optic backbone that goes through 18 counties including western Nevada County. 80% of the project is funded by ARRA via the Department of Commerce ($46.6M), 10% by the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) via the California Public Utilities Commission, and 10% privately by the 8 rural telephone companies that comprise the Central Valley Independent Network (now operating as Vast Networks). The project is currently in construction within Nevada County (February 2013).
The project is providing “last-mile” 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second) symmetrical speed connections for Bear River High School, Nevada Union High School, Madelyn Helling Library, and Pleasant Valley School. It will also provide open access “backhaul” to local ISPs, so they can provide ultra high speed “last-mile” service to homes and businesses.
This fixed wireless project was funded by ARRA via the Department of Agriculture in the amount of a $1.87M grant and a $625k loan. The project will upgrade SmarterBroadband’s existing wireless network and expand their service with new towers in the Tyler Foote Road (“Ridge”) area, and in parts of south county.
New California Public Utilities Commission Funding for Broadband
Once the ARRA funding ended, and many other California-submitted projects were not funded by the Federal stimulus program, those California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) matching monies were returned to that “pot”. In 2011, The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) enacted two resolutions to help bring broadband into needed areas in the state using these monies.
CASF is funded by each household/business that has telephone service. If you look on your phone bill, you’ll currently see about 14¢ per month for CASF; that will be raised to a little over 16¢ per month this summer.
(1) The CPUC provided funding for Regional Consortia to be formed to “aggregate broadband need, educate the populace, and help launch broadband projects”, and (2) they raised the amount of CASF monies for broadband projects to 70% of a project budget for “unserved” areas, and 60% of a project budget for “underserved” areas. The CPUC cites that if an area has access to less than 6 Mbps download speeds and 1.5 Mbps upload speeds, then it is considered “underserved”.
Overview about Regional Consortia (provided by Tellus Venture Associates)
Gold Country Broadband Consortium
Locally, Brent Smith of the Sierra Economic Development Corporation (SEDCorp) proposed that his organization would be the “lead agency” of a Gold Country Broadband Consortium that would cover Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, and eastern Alpine counties. Nevada County was integral in soliciting local letters of support for the Consortium’s funding. There was a “competing” application in El Dorado county, but that was declined. In March 2012, SED Corp was funded in the amount of $150k annually for up to a 3-year period (to be reviewed annually).
Each of the consortia operates differently depending on the needs of its location. The Gold Country Broadband Consortium has hosted a number of public quarterly meetings, and some neighborhood meetings with local Internet Service Providers. A Nevada County event was hosted by and in conjunction with the Nevada County Broadband Advisory Group (see below). The Consortium has not had an organizational meeting of its membership to date, and has not requested input on its plan or operation from its membership. The CPUC cites consortia members as those organizations that appear on the Consortium’s grant application. In Nevada County, those members include the following:
Truckee Donner Recreations and Park District
Spiral Internet’s Nevada County Connected Project
This 100% fiber to the home project applied for California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) monies during the current round of that program’s “underserved” areas funding, submitting on Feb 1, 2013. The project will encompass 26 square miles, connecting 3,214 premises, and consist of 150 miles of construction. Each premise passed will have the capacity for symmetrical 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second) Internet access speeds. 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 project is requesting a $16.6M grant / $500k loan.
Nevada County Broadband Advisory Group
The Nevada County Economic Resource Council had acted as an umbrella for a Telecommunications Committee for over 9 years until it dissolved in 2008, with only Chip Carman (Spiral Internet) and Steve Monaghan (Nevada County CIO) comprising its final membership. In July of 2011, Spiral Internet initiated the restart of this group in Nevada County by meeting with Supervisor Terry Lamphier and County CIO Steve Monaghan. Out of this initial meeting sprung the Nevada County Broadband Advisory Group with the following active members:
The immediate focus of the group is to compile a “Nevada County Broadband Plan” based on the “National Broadband Plan” with a completion set for Summer 2013. The group is also planning to make recommendations for revisions/additions to county and city code to help facilitate construction of faster broadband Internet access.