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Siskiyou County Announces $23 Million Federal ARRA Rural Broadband Wireless Stimulus Bid

9/30/09 - Western Blue, Northern and Central California's experienced IT solution integrator, in a consortium with Siskiyou County, local firms, the Karuk Tribe, the College of the Siskiyou, national technology experts and the State of California announced a $23 million federal ARRA rural broadband wireless stimulus bid.

In a public-private partnership, the Siskiyou County Broadband Consortium led by the Siskiyou County Economic Development Council submitted an application which includes requests for $12 million in "middle mile" funding, plus $10 million and $1 million for "last mile" and "a public computer center" respectively under the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP).

County supervisor Jim Cook applauded the Siskiyou County Economic Development Council's coordinated application for nearly $23 million dollars in federal stimulus funds to make lower cost broadband Internet connectivity a reality, enhancing service to schools, government organizations and communities throughout Siskiyou County, embarking on a path to stimulate economic opportunity and growth for this region. The SCEDC has partnered with local businesses Root Automation and SnowCrest, the Karuk tribe and the College of the Siskiyou, along with Sacramento technology firm Western Blue, and microwave industry leader, Ericsson, Inc., plus the State of California to bring together a collaborative approach. Jim Cook commented, "It has taken time to get traction on this issue and bring all the players together to build a strong county led team to address this issue. We are pleased to see this kind of collaboration and view it as a positive step towards a successful Siskiyou County future."

According to John Thomas Flynn, former chief information officer for the State of California and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and an advisor to the consortium, "California's world renowned natural beauty, while priceless, presents significant challenges to extending broadband connectivity. It is fitting that that this consortium is being led by Siskiyou County, with its beautiful yet rugged mountains, deserts, and other challenging terrain because it represents a rare opportunity where bridging the rural digital divide here, may be replicated anywhere."

Siskiyou County, geographically the 5th largest county in the state of California covering more than 6,347 square miles and larger than the state of Connecticut, is located in the northernmost section of California with a population of approximately 44,301 people, 21,947 households and 2,452 businesses. The county has 32 local k-12 schools and local education agencies which serve some 6,200 students, as well as a local community college. The county also contains 96 institutions that support local, state and federal emergency, health and support services; as well as Tribes, and represents a strong anchor tenant base for the new network. At this time, there really is no middle mile service offering in the county for 100mbps or greater connections.

The Consortium will provide an open, middle mile broadband infrastructure that will allow internet service providers points of connectivity to broadband access. Focusing on the problem of enhancing the middle mile instead of the technology of fiber optics, the terrain of Siskiyou County will become an asset for hosting a microwave network instead of a hindrance to building a fiber network. Once complete, in a matter of months, not years as the microwave network infrastructure is already in place, this design and delivery method can be easily repeatable in other unserved or underserved regions of California as well as the nation.

The cornerstone of the Consortium's Middle Mile strategy is partnering with the State of California's Chief Information Officer, Teri Takai, who oversees the Public Safety Communications Division (PSCD). PSCD manages the State's 260 microwave towers, a number of which are located in Siskiyou County, and on which the state has agreed to lease tower space to allow deployment of microwave radios linking final mile providers in Siskiyou County and their customers to an existing carrier's terrestrial fiber backbone, a state-of-the-art high-capacity broadband fiber optic network with a major fiber route running directly through Siskiyou County.

The Siskiyou County Last Mile infrastructure project will deliver broadband services to end users in Siskiyou County in currently under/unserved areas in the central portion of the county. The limited availability that does exist in underserved areas currently costs on average more than double that charged in metropolitan areas. This new deployment means that 4,495 additional households will have access.

Finally, the community computing center project will provide access to broadband technology in 12 different locations throughout Siskiyou County communities by adding technology advisors and additional time availability in local libraries and free public Wi-Fi access in the city parks in the County Seat community of Yreka.

Siskiyou County's unemployment rate, consistently nearly double that of the state average, currently stands at 18.10%. This multistage broadband deployment has the potential to create over 1,000 jobs.

By Robert Hoskins

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