Broadband Back in Focus

Those of us who already have high speed access have a tendency to get complacent about broadband issues until the next fiber break happens. But some have been working diligently to find ways to improve our telecommunications infrastructure, not waiting for the next disaster and knowing many areas of the region remain un-served or under served. In one fell swoop, one project may solve many of these issues. The California Public Utilities Commission appears prepared to award over $7 million to a company called Broadband Associates through the California Advanced Services Fund to build a second fiber line from I – 5 to Eureka along the Highway 299 corridor.

Other proposed projects such as the IP Networks was working on in conjunction with PG&E have not come to fruition. That project would have used PG&E towers closer to much less populated Highway 36 corridor and, as far as I know made no provisions for access point along the way. The 299 route is more difficult and more expensive but the project includes access for wireless providers to service communities from Blue Lake to Weaverville.

There has been some strong opinions expressed on the RTC mailing list about the wisdom and viability of this project and why we haven’t heard much about it until just now. I think many of the concerns over transparency and accountability should be address to the CPUC itself.

Yesterday I spoke with Michael Brinskele, CEO of Broadband Associates about their proposal. Michael has had an interest in our region for quite a while. He attended the last Broadband Forum and has been in discussion with CENIC and people from Redwood Coast Connect. Their application for the CASF funds has come after looking carefully at the region’s issues and opportunities.

From our conversation I felt he is quite aware of the challenges such a project holds both for the build itself and its economic viability. He believes Broadband Associates has a strong business plan to make this work.  However, since there is still a great deal of planning to do before the February 20 deadline they are purposively not making any public noise about this project in order to not raise expectations or over promise. On the other hand he is pleased there is great interest in this project and has expressed to me an openness to any questions or concerns from people who would like to learn more.  Those questions can be addressed to 299 Fiber Project Area

CBG Areas

Upcoming RTC Events

The Redwood Technology Consortium is trying some new things this year as the result of polling our community and talking to people about what is most useful. Instead of monthly meetings we will be offering a seires of luncheons with panels on variousl topics. The first luncheon will be held February 2, 12-2 PM at the Plaza Grill in Arcata. People from Redwood Coast Connect will be discussing the final report which will be released around that time. Given the comments the project has engendered on the RTC Discussion list and the proposed policy changes at the national, state and local levels regarding telcommunications and broadband, this should prove a lively event. Reservations can be made online.

On March 14, RTC is planning a Tech Conference. This intended to be a more focused event that the old Tech Expo RTC used to host each year. The focus will be on skill development and showcasing tech innovations. While a few things such as at least for hours of training in online marketing, RTC is currently accepting proposals for presentations. This is a chance for local technology experts to share innovations and expertise in a variety of areas. The First Annual Northcoast Technology Conference will be held at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center.

RTC Summary and Look to the Future

Redwood Technology Consortium board member Daria Topousis did a great job summarizing the achievements, transitions and goals of the organization in today’s Tech Beat.  She mentions that one of the highlights that the RTC community is the networking opportunities. I am excited about the new formats we will be trying this year with the luncheons and a tech conference. People may remember the RTC Tech Fairs we put on for several years. The conference will be a more focused one day event with the emphasis on sharing knowledge and experience.

One of the networking features that the RTC community continues to praise is the mailing list where tech news, information and support is shared (you don’t have to be a paid RTC member to join the list). I have a personal goal this coming year to try and use the RTC web site to offer more networking possibilities. Since this is a Drupal site there are many tools available that could be developed to make the site much more interactive. Our first step will be to do a version upgrade and some basic enhancements. But then I’d like to see us use more of the potential of the Drupal platform to help make RTC an even more vibrant community.

Web Site Tools and Marketing Program

The Redwood Technology Consortium’s open meeting takes place Thursday, 5:30 PM at the Humboldt Area Foundation’s Community Center, 373 Indianola Rd. Here’s the program description:

The Humboldt County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has over 100,000 unique visitors to its website during the busiest months. Tony Smithers, Executive Director of the HCCVB will be the featured speaker at the Redwood Technology Consortium’s general meeting on Thursday, November 13th. Mr. Smithers topic is the technology of destination marketing. He will share how HCCVB has developed its proprietary content management system, search engine optimization tools, and rich media capabilities, as well as how the bureau is trying to engage social media in its marketing program.

RTC meetings are free and open to the public.