By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Charter Business announced Wednesday that it will bring a fiberoptic connection into Del Norte and Curry counties that links to a system andquot;big enough to drive a boat through.andquot;

John Irwin, the consultant working with both counties on fiber optics issues, and Keith Grunberg of Charter Business, broke the news to a small group assembled at the county's Economic Development Center.

andquot;If you compare the line into a computer using a modem for the Internet to a pencil lead, a T1 line to a straw and a broadband system to a garden hose, the size of our 'backbone' is a culvert,andquot; Grunberg said.

That culvert compares in size to a straw - a metaphor for the current system serving this area.

The project making the connection possible is a new line between Bandon and Gold Beach, Ore. Its engineering is already on paper, and Charter will begin working on the new connection this summer.

andquot;We have a plant now, but we've been running at Tinker Toy level,andquot; Grunberg said. andquot;We've been having problems keeping the Tinker Toys running, so we're upgrading.andquot;

Grunberg knew a technology gap existed between Port Orford and Gold Beach, Ore., so he did a cost analysis and convinced his bosses to do the project because the company was losing so much business.

andquot;We're building into Bandon, and we have another big 'pipe' coming in from Coos Bay,andquot; he said. andquot;We have engineering un-derway to complete this by the end of summer.andquot;

Everything done in Oregon benefits Del Norte County, already connected to Gold Beach by a fiberoptic line.

This area, he added, is the fastest-growing portion of any in Washington and Oregon, to which Del Norte County is linked, that Charter does business with.

andquot;Your system is pretty robust, but people are just eating it all up,andquot; Grunberg said.

The resulting improved technology won't be a redundant system or one that completely mirrors itself. But because of its design, if one line ceases, a new line will pick up its Internet traffic automatically without customers even knowing it..

andquot;This is enormous to this area,andquot; said Irwin, who runs his own rural Oregon consulting company, JIrwin Community Informatics Consulting, from a computer connection in his home. andquot;I'm a capitalist and I'm proud to say it and there's no free lunch, this company is doing this on its own nickel to make money. This will lead to opportunities not possible yet, it will lead to clean and green.andquot;

Irwin talked about the growing segment of Southern Oregon and Northern California business that is andquot;off the radarandquot; because it doesn't report its business earnings to the local agencies who generate reports about their area's economy.

andquot;Because of this access to robust technologies, they can grow,andquot; Irwin said.

He couldn't hazard a guesstimate of how many people are running such businesses, but has knowledge that they comprise an ever-growing segment of the two areas.

Likening the new connection to andquot;baby steps,andquot; Grunberg warned that Charter has to build its andquot;backboneandquot; before it can do anything.

The new Internet line andquot;goes up and down to everything,andquot; Irwin said.

andquot;What does this do to the harbor?andquot; he asked Harbor Commissioner Mario Deiro. andquot;Maybe you will get your Wi-Fi connection after all.andquot;

Wi-Fi is the techie term that describes wireless Internet standards. Driving to Crescent City from a prior meeting in Oregon, Grunberg and Irwin remembered seeing a rest stop in Gold Beach with a sign to let travelers know the location had Wi-Fi access.

andquot;It was ODOT's first in the state,andquot; Irwin said.

The new connection, while not a panacea for the area, will allow take it a huge step forward in business, tourism and myriad other possibilities, they agreed.