Race Communications answers questions about high-speed internet project | TheUnion.com

Race Communications answers questions about high-speed internet project

Raul Alcatraz from the Race Communications team, addresses concerned members of the public along with a panel of other representatives during Wednesday's meeting at the Rood Government Center.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

There won’t be preferential treatment for which customer gets connected first to the Bright Fiber high-speed internet network.

One of many speakers at a Wednesday town hall, Bob White questioned why someone would pay $119 up front if it didn’t translate into a quicker connection.

Raul Alcaraz, CEO of Race Communications — the company that secured a $16 million grant that will help install the gigabit network — said customers would get connected as the infrastructure was built. Portions of the project along Highway 174 will come online, specific locations not yet determined, and people in those areas will get turned on.

Offering preferential treatment would require the complete construction of the underground and aerial network before anyone received service, Alcaraz said.

“It wouldn’t make sense to go down that route,” he added.

David White, one of almost 100 people who attended the town hall, asked why Race’s customers in other markets pay between $60 to $70 a month. Nevada County users will pay $119.

Alcaraz said that Race started its other projects, carrying them to completion. The Bright Fiber project, initially started by Spiral Internet, had challenges.

“At this point, pricing stands based on the resolution,” Alcaraz said.

Questions

Race Communications bought the project from John Paul, president of Bright Fiber. Paul initially secured the $16 million grant, but couldn’t obtain the private investment needed.

Paul will retain Spiral Internet, which performs hosting, email and DSL resale services. Race owns Bright Fiber — the high-speed internet project — and the grant awarded to it.

Race has declined to disclose the sale price.

Wednesday’s town hall at the Eric Rood Administrative Center was the first time Nevada County residents got the chance to meet employees of Race Communications. The Bay Area company will bring a high-speed internet connection to almost 2,000 homes.

Alcaraz said his company is applying for permits, expected to take three to four months. Construction will begin afterward and take between a year and 18 months.

The project is scheduled for completion by May 2020.

“Race has done the preliminary engineering,” Alcaraz said. “Permits will be submitted as soon as possible.”

According to Alcaraz, people who years ago thought they could tap into the network might get left out. That’s because the first map of the Highway 174 service area was affected by the California Advanced Services Fund process.

The grant provides $16 million in funds — money approved last month by the state Public Utilities Commission. The remaining money will come from private investment. The project’s total cost is around $27 million.

The grant money comes with certain requirements, like determining what homes already lay in another telecommunication company’s service area. The map changed during the grant process, meaning some people who thought they would get service no longer will.

However, the service area has remained unchanged since the grant was awarded in December 2015, said Ally Hetland, with Race Communications.

A map of the service area is at https://nc.race.com.

Going forward

Another change is the number of phases the project will have.

Started by John Paul, with Spiral Internet, the Bright Fiber project was slated to have three phases. The Highway 174 portion was the first.

Alcaraz said the grant requires his company to use the money in a specific area. He wants to expand beyond, and intends to gauge interest in other areas as the existing project is built.

“We have to build to the (grant requirements) first, see if it makes business sense, who’s interested,” Hetland said.

Another change is the installation of the fiber optic lines. The project initially called for the lines to rest underground. Now three-fourths of the project will be on existing poles.

“The idea of everything underground is great,” Alcaraz said. “But the reality is it’s very cost prohibitive.”

Race will have crews in Nevada County to repair the network when necessary, he added.

Alcaraz said his company has received 11 grants from the California Advanced Services Fund. Nine of the projects that used those funds are complete. The 10th is underway. Nevada County is the 11th.

“We have seen a huge benefit from our fiber networks,” Alcaraz said.

Tom Johnston, who attended an earlier meeting about the project, is one of around 600 people who’s already paid $119 to get online. Race said it’s received over $60,000 in deposits from those payments.

Johnston called Race competent and approachable.

“There’s a lot of challenges,” Johnston said. “A lot of permitting that has to be done.

“These guys came across as knowing the business,” he added. “They obviously have been down this road before.”

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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