County misses out on $7.7M broadband grant |

County misses out on $7.7M broadband grant

Living “up the hill,” along the pine-flanked stretch of Highway 20 east of Nevada City, Barbara Brown and husband Phil run a small art studio.

Their vocation requires them to frequently send and receive picture files – an excruciating task on dial-up Internet, the only affordable option in that neck of the woods.

That’s why Brown was disheartened to learn Tuesday that Nevada County did not qualify for a $7.7 million federal grant to provide high-speed, broadband Internet access to most of the county’s residents west of Donner Pass.

The plan would have made wireless Internet available to residents in an area where the mountainous landscape largely prohibits stringing cable.

“There’s no way we can get broadband without cutting out trees and getting a satellite, and that’s expensive. We’re seniors,” Brown said. “We were really looking forward to this, because we don’t have any other options.”

When the U.S. Department of Commerce announced its broadband grants this week, Nevada County’s was not among them, a disappointment after more than a year and a half of work and about 4,000 hours of work, officials said. Nevada County’s grant lost out to similar ones in California in Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

“It was hugely disappointing,” said Gil Mathew, CEO of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council. Mathew’s office collaborated with some businesses to spearhead Nevada County Connected, the group applying for the grant.

“We thought we really had a strong possibility of getting that grant. What it came down to was, how many homes can you serve? You can serve a lot more in the Bay Area,” Mathew added. “But there’s no way for us in a rural community to get that kind of broadband access without a government subsidy.”

The Department of Commerce didn’t offer any reason in writing for the Nevada County project’s rejection, Mathew said.

Officials with the department were not available to comment for this story. The grants awarded are paid for by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Nevada County Connected will continue to seek funding for the last piece of the estimated $11 million project, officials said.

“None of this has stopped us,” said John Paul, co-owner of Nevada City’s Spiral Internet and helped on the broadband project. “We just need to decide how to go forward.”

Group members plan to meet next week to discuss its options, Mathew said.

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail or call (530) 477-4239.

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