“When are you getting to my house?”
That’s the question Bob Marshall said he hears frequently when he talks about high-speed Internet coming to town.
It was the most popular question when Marshall spoke to about three dozen people at Plumas Bank in Quincy on June 20.
Marshall, general manager of Plumas Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative, and Joe Okoneski, the sales manager responsible for its telecommunications division, spoke to locals about the progress of its new high-speed Internet.
They said first priorities are Feather River College, Plumas District Hospital and the Plumas County Office of Education.
“We have to be there by July 31,” Marshall said.
That’s because the three-year federal grant that Plumas Sierra received includes that deadline.
“We are on time and on budget,” Marshall said of the effort.
County government buildings, including the library, are also top priorities. Marshall envisions the library as a hub that will allow individuals to gain access very soon.
Businesses are the next priority.
“We have to get bigger customers up to get revenue,” Marshall said.
For private residences, Marshall is encouraging neighbors to form groups, which he likened to mini-coops.
He said that Whitehawk, in the Clio area, is already organizing through its community services district.
In Quincy, Marshall recommends organizing by block; though not all areas will have immediate access.
Until the access can be widespread, Marshall is looking for organizations and entities that can act as hot spots — locations where individuals can go to gain access. Ideally, they would provide extended hours of operation, such as 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Okoneski said he already has a long list of businesses and individuals who want access.
Saw a need
Marshall explained that Plumas Sierra stepped into Internet in the same say that it originally began providing electricity — it saw a need.
Plumas and neighboring Sierra County lost population in the 2010 census and Marshall attributes that to jobs.
A lack of adequate Internet access prevents businesses from locating to the area and individuals who could telecommute.
Current options, such as AT&T, are at capacity. “No one could get more service,” Marshall said.
And the service that does exist is often inadequate.
“There are eight megs of bandwidth at Portola High School,” Okoneski said. “Kids’ cell phones take down the network.”
Okoneski also told those gathered about a “multi-million dollar business” poised to move to the Sierra Valley, but stopped because of the lack of Internet access.
“We have to sustain our communities; we have to bring new business here,” he said.
Marshall said that local real estate agents play an important role in spreading the word that the capability is coming.
With the infrastructure that Plumas Sierra has put in place, Marshall said that “Pixar and Lucas Films” could move into the county.
Businesses and resident groups are encouraged to call Okoneski at 832-4126 or go to plumassierratelecom.com for more information.
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