Eastern Sierra residents are going digital, there’s no doubt about it, but how and where a new fiber-optic cable will be utilized is up to local residents.
Digital 395, a project that will provide a new 583-mile, fiber-optic network following U.S. 395 from Barstow to the Nevada border, will bring high-speed Internet and broadband capabilities to remote areas of Inyo County that don’t currently have service.
With that project in the works, the Desert Mountain Resource Conservation and Development Council is looking to local residents to find out how and where the new services could and should be used.
Through the Eastern Sierra Connect broadband survey the RC&D hopes to “identify the unserved and underserved communities” in Inyo, Mono and Eastern Kern counties that need broadband Internet connectivity.
To date, the RC&D has received more than 300 surveys, including hard-copy surveys that were made available through a number of county offices to ensure that those the survey targets, residents with little or no Internet access, have an opportunity to participate.
“We are going to begin analyzing the surveys now, but we have extended the deadline from May 27 to June 6,” said RC&D Project Administrative Assistant Alice Lauritzen.
“This is not the Digital 395 grant,” said Deborah Hess, RC&D vice-president and Southern California Edison region manager via press release. “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.”
The survey will also reveal what broadband technologies might be appropriate and affordable to residents and businesses in various areas of the region.
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.
Lauritzen said the decision was made to extend the survey deadline to accommodate a community meeting in Mojave June 1. At that meeting, the RC&D will be handing out copies of the survey for attendees to complete. “We want to include those in the survey results,” she said.
During a community meeting held in Bishop earlier this month, Lauritzen said about 15 residents turned up to discuss the project and provide input.
“We are excited about the community meetings and the results we’re getting from residents,” Lauritzen said. “The turnouts haven’t been huge, but we’ve had good discussions with the people that have come.”
Those who missed the local meetings are welcome to attend the meeting in Mojave, at 7 p.m. Friday, June 1 at the Vets Hall, 15580 “O” Street or simply fill out an online or hard-copy survey and send it to the RC&D.
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 Headquarters on May Street in Bishop, at the County Administration Offices in Independence and at the Lone Pine Library.
Hard-copy surveys may be sent to 1529 E. Ridgecrest Blvd., #7, Ridgecrest, CA 93555.