Spiral Internet gearing up for fiberoptic network in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Spiral Internet gearing up for fiberoptic network in Nevada County

John Paul

KNow & Go

What: Spiral Gigabit Launch

When: 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30

Where: Miners Foundry Cultural Center, Nevada City

Who: Speakers from Washington D.C. and from Kansas City, first site of Google Fiber

Cost: Free and open to the public, reservations required

More info: http://www.spiralinternet.com/launch

Nevada City-based Spiral Internet is poised to secure a $15.2 million grant from the California Public Utilities Commission to build an underground fiberoptic network offering high-speed Internet access in South Nevada County.

The grant, which Spiral will match with a required $13 million in private investor financing, will cover the costs of building the high-speed fiberoptic cable network in a 26-square-mile-swath from Colfax north up the Highway 174 corridor, servicing 2,900 households and 300 businesses.

"It will be 100 percent fiber (connection to the Internet)," said Spiral Internet CEO John Paul. "It will be like the speed you have when you turn on the TV and it's just there."

Financing is expected to be confirmed by the end of this year; construction is expected start next year and must be completed within two years.

"To be able to come to this point is very exciting," said Paul, who has been working on the issue of high-speed Internet access in Nevada County for more than a decade. "The bonus to economic development is that people will now be able to move to Nevada County and still be able to do their work — they don't need to be in the Bay Area."

Spiral Internet was a key player in the 2010 video, http://www.95959Google.com, Nevada County's spirited clip that accompanied the county's bid to host the first Google-funded fiberoptic network.

Nevada County lost out to Kansas City, but the effort led to many important connections.

Some of those will be on display on Oct. 30, when the company will host a free public Spiral Gigabit Launch event from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30 at the Miners Foundry Cultural Center, Nevada City.

Speakers will include: Blair Levin, executive director, Gig.U; Mike Burke, co-chair, Kansas City Mayors Bi-state Innovation Team; Aaron Deacon, executive director, KC Digital Drive; and Anne Neville, director, State Broadband Initiative, U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NTIA.

To reserve a place or for more information, see http://www.spiralinternet.com/launch.

Paul said he will announce more details on the first phase of the fiberoptic network — including the expected costs for service — at the Oct. 30 event.

The affected homeowners, most if not all of whom now have neither satisfactory Internet access nor acceptable cellphone service, will not have to pay anything to have the underground trench dug and the fiber installed to their homes. The project, which will use utility rights of way, will cover the $7,000 per-household cost of bringing the fiber from the road onto the properties and into the homes, Paul said.

"We'll have five or six crews working simultaneously, employing about 60 to 80 people," Paul said. "We're working with the (Nevada County) Contractors Association to secure local contractors."

With the fiberoptic connection, homeowners and businesses will have an Internet connection speed of one gigabit per second, both to upload and to download. The high speed and the symmetry between download and upload will offer not only rapid Internet access but also "crystal clear" cellphone service, Paul said.

Current maximum DSL line speeds in South County — if people even have DSL, which many do not — are only 6 megabits per second to download and 750 kilobits per second to upload. According to the PUC, that DSL rate of speed is unacceptable.

Homeowners and business owners with those speeds are classified as "underserved" and eligible for the grant assistance. the PUC says.

Spiral Internet, which currently employs four people but is hiring a total of 10 within the next few months, will post a blog, http://www.NevadaCountyConnected, to update those who can access the Internet on the progress of construction.

For those within the project who won't be able to access the blog online, the company will organize road signs and bulletin boards to let people know what's happening.

"We'll have to work with them differently to make sure they're informed," said Sandy Jansen, who will be working for Spiral to organize the affected communities and neighborhoods.

Nevada County Consolidated Fire District board member Dave Hanson, a pioneer in the cable TV industry and a leader in broadband technology, said Spiral Internet's project should help home businesses to prosper in Nevada County.

"It will be a blessing to bring high speed Internet access to the rural areas of the county," Hanson said.

Nevada County already has several wireless Internet service providers, including SmarterBroadband, which offers fixed wireless service using line-of-sight technology via small transmitters installed at high points in the rural areas.

Depending on the topography, fixed wireless can help many areas to access the Internet. Gold Country Broadband Consortium, another PUC-funded program, has been working for several years to help rural communities access the Internet through fixed wireless service.

Paul said he will outline the areas to be served with the fiberoptic network at the Oct. 30 event, and also detail plans for future phases of construction.

Prior to the public event at the Miners Foundry, Spiral Internet will also host a day-long conference on Internet conductivity and how it can be used for applications ranging from tele-healthcare, to education, to video production.

According to Paul, the Cleveland, Ohio, area, for example, uses tele-healthcare in the rural areas hooked up with physicians at Case Western Reserve University Hospital.

A nurse comes to a patient's home in the rural area, hooks up the sensors to his or her body, plugs into an ultra high-definition television feed over the Internet, and the physician can examine and diagnose the patient remotely.

Another possibility is to have Sierra College campuses hooked into a national "brain trust" of about 120 colleges and universities already connected via high-speed Internet. The symmetry of the fiber connection is what makes such options available, Paul said.

"Years ago, every home in the U.S. had copper wires put in, going to each home, but we never got wired again for the 21st century," he said, referring to fiber. "That's the kind of network we need."

To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email kbrenner@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.