Slow Fiber in Nevada County — FCC Help on the Horizon?

Union Columnist George Boardman reports that Spiral’s fiber-optic network has been delayed again.

Nevada County’s long-promised high-speed fiber-optic network has been delayed again, and John Paul, CEO of Spiral Internet, is not making any promises about when groundbreaking will occur and the first customers will receive service.

Perhaps Paul has concluded that he is no good at making predictions. As recently as May, he told the Economic Resource Council that high-speed internet access would be available to its first customers in late fall.

Then there was February, when he said the first customers would be online by late spring.

Of course, in October of 2016, Paul predicted service by spring of this year.

Lack of such connectivity guarantees an area will be left behind as the economy increasingly demands that companies compete not just with their neighbors next door, but with the entire world.

And when the state Public Utilities Commission approved $16.7 million is taxpayer funds for the project in December of 2015, Paul said groundbreaking would take place in spring of 2016, with some homes getting service in fall 2016.

The most telling part of the column was the reason for the delay.

It has taken over a year to complete the environmental report. Now Spiral can begin the network design, which will have to be approved by the county and city of Grass Valley before permits can be issued. Paul expects that process to take a few months.

Earlier this summer I was talking with the Chief Engineer at CalNet who was awarded funds for three projects by the Public Utilities Commission several months before Spiral received their funding. They were just getting started on the first of the three projects, having just won approval for their project CEQA Report. It took a whole year for an environmental approval for the first broadband network. They are still working on the second and third project environmental report.

Mr. Boardman continues:

Adopting their usual posture of leading from behind, the supervisors prefer to let others solve the problem instead of providing the leadership required to come up with an innovative solution — like, for example, creating our very own high-speed communications utility.

The county could create its own public utility with the specific task of bringing high-speed communications to the county. Startup costs could be funded by a bond issue that would be retired with profits generated by the utility. And instead of spending a lot of time and money trying to acquire rights-of-way, the utility could make a deal to run its equipment along NID land. The same people who need water also want high-speed internet service.

I agree with Boardman’s statement with one NID exception discussed below. The County could have created a public service company and build out broadband, competing with Comcast and AT&T and the wireless providers like SmarterBroadband, like the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation(MBC)  MBC owns and operates 1,800 route miles of fiber … MBC supports a 100GB research network in Virginia for the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance. More on the MBC in future posts, as they have teamed with Microsoft to develop TV Whitespace networks for areas not covered by their fiber networks.

The FCC has taken note of the delays caused by state and local regulatory barriers like Spiral has been experiencing and will again as they apply for construction permits.

GN Docket No. 17-83
This Public Notice serves as notice that Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) Chairman Ajit Pai has appointed members to serve on two Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) working groups, Competitive Access to Broadband Infrastructure and Removing State and Local Regulatory Barriers.1 The members of these working groups are listed in Appendix A. The selection of members for the Streamlining Federal Siting working group is in progress, and final selections for this group will be announced at a later date.
The BDAC is organized under, and operates in accordance with, the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).2 The BDAC’s mission is to provide advice and recommendations to the Commission on how to accelerate the deployment of high-speed Internet access.3 The BDAC held its first meeting on Friday, April 21, 2017.

The NID exception. The idea of using NID right away was explored by the ERC’s Telecommunication Resources Committee, and according to NID, any communications conduit would have to be 6 feet from any treated waterline. Thus separate ditches would have to be dug, negating any cost savings of using a single ditch. NID did not embrace any overtures to cooperate with fiber-optic telecommunication companies.

Your views on the delay are most welcome.

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