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Governor Schwarzenegger Endorses Siskiyou County's $23 Million Federal ARRA Rural Broadband Stimulus Bid

11/11/09 - Western Blue, Northern and Central California's experienced desktop to datacenter IT solution integrator, announced that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has included all three Siskiyou County grant applications among the list of state approved projects for rural broadband funding submitted for federal stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

In a public-private partnership, the Siskiyou County Broadband Consortium led by the Siskiyou County Economic Development Council had submitted three applications in August which included 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). 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.

In his letter to NTIA Administrator, Larry Strickling, Governor Schwarzenegger stated, "I can confidently support the enclosed projects as consistent with our goals for broadband expansion and education. These are the projects, and the ARRA investments, that will best allow us to meet our broadband goals, bring jobs to the vast unserved areas of our state and improve the quality of life for all Californians."

The Governor's approved list included 64 California projects. Siskiyou County's proposed projects were among some 225 applications statewide for a combined total of over $3 billion, and part of over 2,200 applications submitted nationwide for a grand total of $28 billion. According to the federal agencies' schedules, they will announce final funding decisions over the next 45-60 days for the approximately $4 billion of funding available.

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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