Coastal Voices: Internet redundancy: Perseverance pays off

By Mike Sullivan January 20, 2014 04:34 pm

With the recent completion of the Grants Pass to Crescent City broadband redundant infrastructure project, I feel compelled to make the public aware of one of our most recent success stories.

This project is a part of the “HAS199.Com” project list (“Harbor, Airport, Sewer, Highway 199 and Internet”) and will serve our community for years to come and set the foundation for Del Norte County being the “hub” for broadband infrastructure on the North Coast.

Over the course of this project, consultant John Irwin established the need for the U.S. Highway 199 route after considerable field work, understanding of demographics and economic parameters, reasonability of a win-win with a positive return on investment for Charter Communications, identified the Oregon Health Net (OHN) funding source with Sutter Coast as the anchor tenant for the project, stayed in the background but also not so far back as to let the project die (which it nearly did on more than one occasion), and generally acted as an active advocate on behalf of Del Norte and Curry counties. 

This was another example of a public-private partnership. Along the way there were many who contributed in one way or another to the success of this project.

Projects of this nature that extend over many years require at least one person to provide continuity and coordination of efforts. Infrastructure projects often take many years to build a base of support prior to the actual commitment and building of the infrastructure.

As seen in what follows, this project took from early 2006 to early 2014 to complete. This success did not happen overnight.

The build-out of the fiber redundant infrastructure was achieved in two legs. Infrastructure was in place from Bandon to Roseburg to the I-5 corridor. To complete the ring, infrastructure was constructed first from Bandon to Crescent City (2007) and then from Crescent City to Grants Pass (2014).

The Bandon to Crescent City leg was constructed using Charter funds. The Crescent City to Grants Pass route was built using Oregon Health Net (OHN) funding (FCC Rural Healthcare Pilot Project) and Charter matching funds with the bulk coming through OHN. The FCC/OHN funding provided for 100 percent of the capital build to Sutter Coast and 80 percent of the recurring monthly cost for Sutter Coast’s connection.

Del Norte County, through the Tri-Agency Economic Development Association (TA EDA), provided the bulk of the consultant’s funding (total: $129,000 over five contracts, over an eight year period for an average of $16,125 per year). It should be noted the consultant did considerable pro bono work after 2009 so that the project could be completed.

The challenge now is for regional leadership in Del Norte and Curry counties to take advantage of this resource. A comprehensive approach needs to be developed to fully utilize this resource. Broadband must be utilized in an appropriate and integrated part of daily life by consumers, businesses, and public institutions to ensure economic development occurs.

All who have been involved in this very successful project from start to finish should be proud of their  accomplishment, and the residents of Del Norte County and the surrounding region will be greatly served by the significant resource that we now have available to us and how bright the future is with this development in place.

Michael Sullivan is a Del Norte County supervisor.