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Survey targets local Internet use, needs

April 19, 2011

As county leaders prepare to complete the Digital 395 project that will lay broadband infrastructure in remote areas of the county, the local RC&D is asking residents to complete a short survey that will be used to lure service providers to the area by detailing what kinds of services are desired and where the greatest need is. Photo courtesy metrocreativegraphics.com

Residents in Inyo, Mono and Eastern Kern counties have an opportunity to tell Internet providers what kinds of service they receive, if any, and what kinds of services they would like to see in the area.
The Desert Mountain Resource Conservation and Development Council recently launched an Eastern Sierra Connect broadband survey. The survey aims to help identify the unserved and underserved communities in Inyo, Mono and Eastern Kern counties that need broadband Internet connectivity and the broadband technologies that might be appropriate and affordable to residents and businesses.
The survey will be used in conjunction with the Digital 395 project, which will bring high-speed broadband capabilities to many regions of the Eastern Sierra that have not had access to the technology in the past.
“This is not the Digital 395 grant,” said Deborah Hess, RC&D vice-president and Southern California Edison region manager. “Eastern Sierra Connect is a separate demand project aimed at encouraging existing and potential providers to build local broadband to unserved and underserved communities in the Eastern Sierra region.”
“This is basically a feasibility study to look at the demand in the area,” said Doug Thompson, RC&D president and owner of the Mt. Whitney Portal Store and Hostel in Lone Pine. “It can be used as a marketing tool to draw service providers in and get current providers interested in serving these areas.”
Basically, Eastern Sierra Connect aims to show Internet providers that the Digital 395 project will be put to good use if they get on board and offer services.
“The Eastern Sierra lacks Internet providers, Internet services and adequate communications capacity to meet our business and residential needs,” Thompson said. “Our Eastern Sierra Connect project is gathering the information needed to assess the broadband infrastructure necessary for adequate availability over our vast, sparsely populated service areas that are environmentally and geographically challenging.”
Eastern Sierra Connect provides a way to inform and educate the region regarding requirements and benefits of broadband. Results of the project will be offered as supporting evidence of growth opportunities for existing and potential regional providers. Those providers may choose to utilize the Digital 395 backbone once it is built.
“We already know that our geography and population are not a good fit with the national investment models of broadband providers,” noted Danna Stroud, RC&D board member and recreation/tourism consultant. “The public outreach portion of the Eastern Sierra Connect program will provide critical information so we can harness our frontier spirit and encourage construction and full use of new Internet capacity.”
Public outreach has begun and will end in June 2011. The survey is available online at DesertMountainRCandD.org. A printable version and a printable poster can be downloaded from the Eastern Sierra Connect project pages at https://sites.google.com/site/dmrcandd/home.
In addition to the online survey, which takes between five and 15 minutes to complete, paper surveys for those without Internet access will be made available at local chambers of commerce, County Administrative Headquarders on May Street in Bishop, at the County Administration Officers in Independence and at the Lone Pine Library.
Currently, a majority of the Inyo County residents who have filled out the questionnaire have been Bishop area residents, but Thompson said it is important that the RC&D reach out to a broad range of residents, from those who have Internet access in communities such as Lone Pine and Bishop, to those who do not, such as residents of outlying communities such as Darwin or the Alabama Hills.
There will also be two community meetings in Inyo County and two in Mono County later this spring to gather input from residents.
The deadline to fill out the online survey is May 27.

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