Jonathan Speaker: Am I Being Redundant? – April 11, 2011

The recent mudslide in southern Humboldt once again illustrates how remote and wild of an area we all live in and enjoy. With swift action, Mother Nature shut off one of our main supply routes to the outside world, which was the most obvious, the other thing it did was to bring back to the attention of some of us, how precarious our internet connection is to the outside world. “I anticipate the loss of fiber connectivity within the next few days” was the summation of a letter circulating in the Humboldt County Office of Education. That is unacceptable in 2011.

We as a community have one fiber line in, after all these years, and all the promises from our politicians and the “economic development” crowd. As a private citizen I have done all that I can think of to do. I even went so far as to participate in a meeting with Mark Lovelace and arch-conservative Rob Arkley early last year, that included PG&E, Suddenlink and IPNetworks which resulted in not a coalition as I had hoped, but splintered ideas and partisanship from both sides. “You need to have a supervisor that understands your needs as a small business,” I was told, so I got behind a supervisor candidate that promised to focus on a second fiber-optic line- “Priority project!” Mr. Lovelace stated in his platform, well where is that priority now, two years later?

As a small business co-owner that is in the technology services field, we are green jobs. We support 20 local families, and we rely on an internet connection to the outside world in order to live and work here in Humboldt. Besides the typical hurdles that any small company faces, payroll and taxes, we have the added benefit of trying to be an example for the technology sector succeeding in the county, to show others that Humboldt can be a place for green and midsized technology companies to thrive and grow, and we are doing it with one hand tied behind our backs.

I would appreciate our local representatives doing more than hand shaking and talking about process, I would appreciate some concrete actions and attention to the matter at hand, something that we are still forced to discuss even though the 1990s were more than a decade ago, when most Americans were having this discussion.

Do you think that Mr. Lovelace doesn’t talk to Wes Chesbro, and to Congressman Thompson? Do you think he can’t organize a coalition to focus on this subject and get the appropriate people to buy in? If not, you probably shouldn’t vote for him in the next election. The Third District could really use a leader, and someone who can focus on priorities of economic infrastructure to help drag us out of being a Third World county. Redundant fiber will do it, and you can quote me.

Ultimately, Lovelace is a small player in the scheme of getting redundant fiber, and I realize the world does not rest on his shoulders. However, I am interested in holding him to the promises he made directly and more importantly, I am asking him to lead.

Jonathan Speaker, local small business co-owner in beautiful Bayside, Arcata homeowner and resident of Trinidad.



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  1. doren said:

    Bruleé au vin > I voted for Obama. Not going to do it again.

    I don’t play the repub/democrat game of who’s bestus. Both parties suck. But in the interest of fairness:

    Growing Fiber Internet in Rural America: A Stimulus Success Story

    Not being from Humboldt (I’m in San Diego) but loving Humboldt, I often wonder why the business community there is so lame. I vacationed in Hawaii & Humbolt a few years ago, and Humboldt was far more beautiful. The place SHOULD be a tourist magnet. But the web presence of Humboldt is laughable. Really!!! No servers up there can handle a graphic larger than 3″ x 4″??? Pictures are worth a thousand words people. Big pictures of Trinidad Bay, the Lost Coast, the Kneeland forest area, Fieldbrook, Redwood National Park, Gingerbread Homes in Eureka and Ferndale just to mention a few. The place is incredibly beautiful, charming and filled with photo opps. Heck I could do better than your Chamber of Commerce with my eyes closes and one hand tied behind my back. Get out your cameras, put some cheap ads on Google.

    Point out that the big cities are crumbling into anarchy and corruption. Humboldt could be a retirement paradise, or a paradise for people who telecommute. All you have to do is make it so.

    I know I will be up there asap.

  2. Sean McLaughlin said:

    The reality of broadband networks serving rural folks in the US is characterized by market failure, with profit taking, huge public subsidies, and highly concentrated ownership in private hands driving a lack of vision (or investment) to provide an essential social good.

    We’re fortunate to have innovators in our region who have figured out how to work around the limitations of remoteness and fragile public infrastructure.

    And, it really is a political accomplishment that we have a single fiber spur in Humboldt County now. Thanks to all the visionary leaders here who made that happen! [Note: The substantial redundant broadband capacity available now (via microwave network) is really due to local enterprise of 101 Netlink.]

    From the author’s complaint, can we gather that more political leadership and public investment in our broadband infrastructure is being promoted here?

    So, it will be happy news to some that most of the resources being used to build Humboldt’s redundant fiber path (along Hwy 36/PG&E lines) are assets paid for by electric utility ratepayers with 40% of the cash investment provided by telecom ratepayers statewide through a subsidy mechanism called CASF that is managed by the State Public Utilities Commission.

    As a measure of integrity – can we expect the author to celebrate and praise elected officials when a new redundant fiber is installed with public investments and ratepayer subsidies making it profitable?

  3. Josh Oaks said:

    I hate to say it but Humboldt County is a dying community. Whatever successes you and your partner have achieved in your tech business consider it a blessing because it sounds like you may have peaked?

  4. Bruleé au vin said:

    And how about President Obama’s “Commitment to rural broadband”? Where’s the leadership in that? Oh wait… he’s just a corporate apologist.

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