Redwood forests and high speed internet

Last month more than a hundred people gathered for the third annual Redwood Coast Broadband Forum in Northern California. The purpose was to discuss the current state of high speed internet access along the state's North Coast and ways to expand access to all residents.

The conference was sponsored by the Redwood Technology Consortium (RTC), Redwood Coast Rural Action (RCRA),and Redwood Region Economic Development Commission (RREDC). With progress at the federal level slow and difficult, these are precisely the kinds of organizations that need to be on the front lines of the fight to bring high speed internet to every corner of the country.

Much of the discussion at the conference focused on the ways that high speed internet helps businesses and boosts the economy.

According to Gregg Foster, executive director of RREDC, broadband is becoming an increasingly important aspect of operating a business.

These days, Foster said, “telecommunications is a basic infrastructure for business, education and health care.” Right now, he added, businesses operating from within Humboldt County are at a competitive disadvantage because it costs more to run a business from a remote location.

Although the three sponsor organizations have been working on improving technology in the region for years, the precarious state of high speed internet along California's North Coast became especially clear last winter.

Currently, one high-speed fiber connects the North Coast with the Bay Area. It is owned by AT&T and, according to RTC board member Tina Nerat, has served the area well over the past three years. But having just one fiber connection has many drawbacks, as was made clear when North Coast broadband users were cut off from high-speed services during severe winter conditions late last year and again several weeks later when a structure fire near the town of Willits fried the line.

Local businesses relying on the line for both Internet and long-distance phone connections were left frantically searching for other options. Retailers couldn’t process credit cards, ATMs were inoperable, credit cards at local gas stations didn’t work and businesses relying on the Internet for sales or services were out of luck.

With the continued efforts of the Redwood Coast Broadband Forum sponsors and attendees, high speed internet along California's North Coast will become as ubiquitous as its majestic redwood forests.

For residents of the region, that time can't come soon enough.

Redwood Technology Consortium

Redwood Coast Rural Action

Redwood Region Economic Development Commission

Talking high speed (The Eureka Reporter)