At brief meeting with Peter Pennekamp and Rollin Richmond regarding progress in the pushing broadband development in rural areas, I was encouraged by the direct, action oriented disscusion. Some of the items covered included:
- Efforts to streamline state regulations and permitting that would slow down any fiber build out
- The formation of a rural telecom sug-committee that will inform the Task Force
- A report that’s due at the end of February that will offer specific actions at the state level
- Continued discussion on regional cooperation to get the alternate fiber done
- Money for the alternate fiber may be easy to raise
While this is all still at the talking phase, the talk is active and pointed in the right direction. It’s encouraging. The next few months should tell us if anything will come of it.
The fiber outages have certainly raised the profile of our fragile connections to the outside world. But what about the efforts to connect people within the county? Well, there’s some good news and some bad news.
First, the Good News
As mentioned previously, the City of Eureka is slowly adding wireless access. The most recent being the Wharfinger Building where free wireless is available. I am told that the Adorni Center will soon be added. It’s unclear how far the signal will reach at each point. I’d love to hear from anyone who has tested the connection at the Wharfinger. It would be nice if the Adorni Center reaches out to Halvorsen Park, but we’ll see. The City is also close to having an RFP for a planning consultant for a municipal wireless network ready. It’s gratifying that these efforts are being made. I only hope that by the time the network plan is ready, technology will have moved so far ahead the will be obsolete.
In Myrtletown there are plans to expand a small wireless area. The page says the expansion was to take place in 2006, so it’s unclear when it will really happen.
Up in Arcata more hot spots are springing up and Carlson Wireles, recently relocated there, may be pushing that even further. According to this Times-Standard article, “Plans are under way to begin working with students and faculty at Humboldt State University in the spring. Projects with the school include helping to develop Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the city…”
Down in Southern Humboldt 101Netlink is offering broadband wired and wireless access. Since they have their own backhaul over microwave to Ukiah they also were unaffected by the recent AT&T fiber outages. They’re also offering dedicated T1 lines to northern Humboldt. They’re also offering dedicated T1 lines to northern Humboldt. This might be a good idea for businesses where connectivity is critical.
Now for the Bad News
After much discussion and experimentation, the ad hoc group trying to put up a wireless network in Old Town Eureka seems to have languished. I’ve had a router sitting in my office for a few months that even I can’t connect to. I admire the desire and the energy that these volunteers have put in to the project. I wonder if there is really enough will to make it work. I thought they’d beat the City to the mark, but as slow as this project is moving, I have my doubts.
The Orick Wireless Broadband study is now complete, and no surprise, according to Tina Nerat, who worked on the study, the cost of providing reliable backhaul to that village is still too high for the return.
And finally, though DSL and Cable is slowly creeping out from the densely poplulated areas. There are still many pockets fairly close in that still have no broadband possibilities, and may never, at least if the only choices are AT&T and Suddenlink. We have vast areas of the county where broadband is still only a dream.
Two outages in less than a month! This is not good, folks. And the fact that we have still not received a full accounting on the first one just compounds the frustration. There is also no system in place to provide an emergency alert (via radio and TV, of course) which would let us know what’s happening. What is AT&T thinking?
At long last the City of Eureka has added wireless access to the Wharfinger Building. Apparently access to the wireless network will be free and open to anyone who wishes to use it. So, you could take your sack lunch and your laptop and drive down to the waterfront, park in the Wharfinger lot and surf the web while you watch the seagulls and the fishing boats float up and down the bay.
Or, if you happen to be attending an event and you have your new IPhone! you could slip it out during the boring parts and check your email or watch an episode of The Office without anyone hardly noticing.