Erika Kosina: The state of broadband in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Erika Kosina: The state of broadband in Nevada County

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Erika Kosina

Nevada County's tech industry is poised for growth. More and more tech talent and businesses are realizing what a great place Nevada County is to live.

But before this growth can happen, we need two things: more housing and more internet.

Nevada County Tech Connection recently hosted a meeting about the latter — the status of broadband internet in our county. Kristin York, vice president of Business Innovation at Sierra Business Council, led the discussion. The audience was diverse and vocal — it included Spiral Internet CEO John Paul, self-described "impatient activist" Andrew Wilkinson and Jeff Thorsby, administrative analyst for the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

Sierra Business Council took over the Gold Country Broadband Consortium from SEDCorp, and is working to convene, educate, and identify grants and other financing opportunities for five mostly rural counties who would like to have better internet service. Their main focus is on under-served or unserved areas as identified in the California Public Utilities Commission map that contain a high percentage of businesses and people who depend on the internet for their jobs (remote workers), education opportunities, or tele-medicine needs.

Want better internet?

York encouraged Nevada County residents who would like to see their internet speed improve to take the California Public Utility Commission's internet speed test on the commission's website at http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/Broadband_Availability_and_Public_Feedback/. The results upload automatically to their website if you use the app.

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If your internet is really bad, you can print out a form and send it in. The best time to take it is in the evening, when everyone is streaming, but you can take it as many times as you like. Encourage your neighbors to take it, too — the higher the number of people who ask for it, the more likely it is to happen. It's even more effective if the internet speed that you and your neighbors record is consistently lower than what your internet service provider states as the speed they are serving.

And speaking of neighbors, there are several neighborhoods in rural California areas who have successfully raised enough private money to get their own wireless tower and improve internet speed in their own little neighborhood.

Fiber is coming!

In other news, the long-awaited broadband project that Spiral Internet has been championing to bring 100 percent fiber optic connectivity to homes and businesses in western Nevada County will soon come to fruition.

CEO John Paul was happy to report that the company has identified two candidates to provide the matching funding that is needed to kick the project off. He told the group that he will be selecting one of the investors in the next few weeks, and will definitely break ground this year.

This project, known as the Bright Fiber Network, has been in the works for 10 years.

Nevada County can improve our internet situation — the SBC demonstrated multiple ways of how this might happen. The most important thing that we can do as a tech community is unite.

York shared this advice: "The most successful communities have task forces with representatives from both businesses and citizens."

Nevada County Tech Connection hosted this meeting as one more step in the process of bringing such a task force together to make our voices heard.

Erika Kosina, who lives in Nevada City, is a communications consultant and writer for the Nevada County Tech Connection.