An Internet infrastructure project scheduled for immediate commencement is expected to provide a viable solution to the region’s persistent Internet problems.
“This marks the beginning of a new era for Internet access for Nevada County,” said John Paul of Spiral Internet, a Nevada City-based independent Internet service provider.
A lack of high-speed Internet has dogged the economic vitality of the region for the past decade, officials have said. A survey of business owners in western Nevada County conducted by the Economic Resource Council in 2011 demonstrated that the paucity of Internet coverage was the single largest issue, according to previous reports.
In an effort to address the problem, Vast Networks — a consortium of rural California-based telephone companies — will begin installing a fiber-optic cable network throughout the county, according to a news release issued by Mike Stewart, director of marketing for Vast Networks.
The extensive network, which will reach throughout the county, will feature higher speeds and capacities, important redundancy and flexibility that current infrastructure does not allow, Stewart said.
Currently, the only fiber optic cables that traverse the region are owned by large ISPs, such as AT&T and Comcast, Paul said.
The new fiber optic cable will be available to independent ISPs, largely due to the fact that federal funds derived from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were leveraged to build the project.
“It levels the playing field,” Paul said. “Spiral will definitely be interested in utilizing (the cable) in months to follow.”
For the average consumer, it will result in more options and more affordability with increased competition, Paul said.
ISPs like Spiral and SmarterBroadband currently use alternative technologies to fiber-optic cables, but Paul said “as far as reliability and security is concerned” fiber optic transmission of information is superior.
Aside from the immediate benefits to the average consumer and to Nevada County’s ability to attract a more diverse range of businesses to the area, there are tremendous public benefits as well, Paul said.
Nevada Union High School, Bear River High School, Pleasant Valley Middle School and the Madelyn Helling Library will feature Internet speeds of 1 gigabyte per second, which is equivalent to 1,000 megabytes per second, Paul said.
By way of comparison, the average household in western Nevada County receives about 6 megabytes per second, and the most anyone can obtain on the open market is 54 megabytes per second, which is costly, Paul said.
Steve Monaghan, chief information officer for Nevada County, said the project is akin to “the railroad coming through a town and bringing prosperity and an industry expansion.”
From the county’s perspective, the project will help in three separate areas, Monaghan said, including creating better internal efficiency, providing more and better access to public materials and enhancing public safety.
The county streams public television channels 11 and 17 on its website, along with streaming public meetings, Monaghan said.
Better bandwidth will help make those elements operate more efficiently along with helping the management and support of the large data center the county maintains. The county also offers an increasing number of documents, meeting agendas and other public material through its website, MyNevadaCounty.com, which means that citizen access to high-speed Internet becomes paramount.
“Civic engagement is important,” Monaghan said. “We have more information online than ever, and we are about to go online with plan submissions for the building department.
“So the county needs more bandwidth, but (the county) also needs citizens to have the necessary bandwidth to use these services.”
The redundancy in the new fiber optic cable network will ensure public safety agencies and emergency responders will have the necessary communication abilities in the event of a large scale emergency.
Last January, a fiber optic cable was accidently cut by emergency responders reacting to a downed telephone pole.
The severed wire led to a large-scale communication outage that affected hospital communication and caused public safety agencies to scramble to come up with alternative means of communication.
Monaghan and Paul both said the installation of a new cable will create system redundancy and will help prevent such an occurrence in the future.
The Nevada County portion of the project is part of an unprecedented 1,300-mile network infrastructure project that is slated to provide comprehensive coverage to an 18-county region from north of Colusa to south of Bakersfield in the Central Valley and from Nevada City to Mariposa in the Sierra.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4239.