With the Board of Supervisors’ award today of $500,000 to four local internet service providers (ISP), broadband service will be offered to 440 households to support distance learning, remote working, and tele-medicine. Each of the four projects offers a unique and innovative approach to expanding broadband in areas challenged by both remote geography and low population density.
The County’s Broadband Work Group worked with the Sierra Business Council to solicit applications from internet service providers and presented the award recommendations for the Board’s consideration. The funded ISPs include Northern Sierra Broadband, in the amount of $120,000; Nevada County Fiber, Inc., in the amount of $113,000; Exwire, Inc., dba Oasis Broadband, in the amount $62,000; and Spiral Fiber, Inc., in the amount of $205,000.
“Connecting our community to the internet is job number one. What I like about these innovative projects is that they are local, affordable, and take a community serving approach. This is what the ‘Last-Mile’ grants are about – serving areas that would be unlikely to receive broadband service without grant funding,” said Board Chair Dan Miller.
“Last-mile” refers to the final leg connecting the broadband service provider’s network to the end-use customer’s home. The “Last-Mile” grant program, which the Board established in 2019, is funded with Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) dollars intended to promote economic development.
The Northern Sierra Broadband project will offer fiber service to 35 Grass Valley homes
Located in the area of Buck Mountain Road, Oak Drive, Arianna Court, Mountain View Court, Sunset View Court, and Mountain Park Court, in unincorporated Grass Valley, three-quarters of the project will be underground fiber-optic with one-quarter above ground.
“Our project is a 501(c)12 nonprofit public utility with plans to manage the network as a membership cooperative, giving homeowners a stake in the decision-making processes. We will be able to easily scale into adjacent neighborhoods as demand dictates,” said Northern Sierra Broadband board member Michael Anderson.
The Nevada County Fiber project will offer fiber service to 22 Nevada City homes
This 100% underground fiber optic network will connect 22 homes in the Community of Oak Ridge and Bear Claw Court neighborhood, in unincorporated Nevada City. This project is an extension of the 16-home, Banner Mountain project, funded through the 2019/2020 Last-Mile Grant.
“Our underground network is resilient to environmental disasters and future proof with 10GB capability. It’s designed for long-term scalability, with the vision of evolving into a community owned cooperative,” said Andrew Wilkinson, owner of Nevada County Fiber, Inc.
The Oasis Broadband project will offer WISP service to 103 Eastern County homes
This project will offer fixed wireless broadband service, with download speeds initially 100 Mb/sec, to 103 residents located in Eastern Nevada County’s remote unserved/underserved unincorporated sub-communities, referred to as Dog Valley Area/Russell Valley/Klondike Flats. A seasonal campground may add up to an additional 535 residents for five months of the year.
“Over the past 18 years, we’ve provided internet service to some of the most remote, underserved areas in the harshest environments possible. Our equipment at the top of Mount Lincoln, Tahoe Donner, and Squaw Valley has taken on 100+ mph winds and 30 feet of snowpack for more than a decade with a failure rate of less than one-tenth of one percent,” said Devin Koch, Oasis Broadband’s founder.
The Spiral Fiber, Inc. project will offer fiber service to over 380 homes Nevada County homes
This project, located north of the Nevada City limits in the Lake Vera Purdon Road and North Bloomfield Road neighborhoods, will be 100% fiber-optic and built as an open-access-ready network.
“Due to the high wildfire danger, the network will be all-underground and remain up and running during PSPS events or general power outages. We appreciate the County’s support, which provides instrumental seed money to help leverage investment for the larger buildout of up to 14,000 home connections,” said Sandy Hakala, Spiral Fiber’s CEO.
“We’re thrilled to be bringing gigabit symmetrical internet speeds to parts of Nevada County that can barely connect,” stated John Paul, Spiral Fiber’s Chief Growth Officer.
“In a rural county like ours, there are significant service gaps. I’m looking forward to seeing these projects implemented over the next 12-18 months. We want to go that ‘last-mile’ and make sure everyone who wants to get online can, so these projects represent important milestones on the road towards that goal,” said Steve Monaghan, the County’s Chief Information Officer.