Are we online yet?

Plumas Sierra Telecommunications held a meeting May 12, giving an overview of the progress PST is making in the ongoing endeavor to bring high speed Internet to the far reaches of the Plumas County area and beyond.

PST board member Richard Short spoke about the fact that what goes on at PST affects all local organizations, and PST hopes that they are having a positive effect on the community.

“We are constantly making changes for the betterment of the community,” Short stated. “Having reliable, high speed Internet is so important these days — it makes business a lot more efficient.”

General Manager Bob Marshall then went on to present the latest updates from PST, after touching on the electric side of the picture at Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric.

“It’s been an interesting winter,” Marshall said. “We’ve been pretty lucky. There was a lot of drama through the winter that nobody saw, with power going out from NV Energy and PG&E, but we were lucky to have only a few incidents where we lost power fully.”

Marshall spoke about the overhaul that is in the works on the transmission line from Graeagle to Quincy, with this being a good time for that endeavor. He also touched on the fact that it has been “a good hydro year” for the co-op, and that there will be no rate increase for the third year running.

Marshall also spoke about the influx of affordable solar power, which is easier for locals to acquire due to inexpensive pricing.

“Everyone is doing it and so we are at a point where the price for daytime electrical use is negative one cent per kilowatt hour. There is more supply than load, and then in the evening once the sun drops down, prices shoot back up again. It’s been interesting to figure out how to bounce through these interesting challenges.”

Marshall then went on to display area mapping, with Internet-ready areas popping up all throughout Plumas and Sierra counties. One of the biggest issues that has spurred growth at PST has been the streaming of online media, such as Netflix, which bogs down the towers.

“Everyone loves to be able to stream and Verizon had to find a way to keep up with demand for unlimited streaming. And once they did, it became apparent that there is only so much capacity on the towers, and it has ended up crushing service quality off of the tower on Beckwourth Peak,” Marshall commented.

Marshall then went on to speak about tests being run in the Lake Davis pocket with Advanced Wireless, with the test working beyond expectations.

“The wide open spaces in Sierra Valley and Vinton are covered nicely, with Sierraville and Doyle areas on the short list to be rebuilt soon,” Marshall continued.

The exciting part is that PST did something in the last two years that has never been done in the world — they acquired a coaxial system through a writ, after New Day went defunct.

New Day had previously run much of the web service in Plumas County prior to going out of business and its system is still covering most of Quincy. This has made it easier to get Quincy up and running with high-speed web access, with the fastest Quincy customer at speeds of 50 mbs download and 10 mbs upload at the Ranchito Hotel.

“There is fiber cable in every business district,” Marshall explained, “Including Blairsden, Cromberg, Graeagle, even Clio.”

In Portola, the web is up, with more installations taking place on a daily basis.

“We have hired on extra hands and we are still out there around the clock to get people connected,” Marshall said, smiling.

Delleker is also up and Marshall said that there is reasonable coverage with wireless web access. Gold Mountain in fact banded together May 11, with multiple property owners joining up to sign a contract for fiber cable to be installed through Gold Mountain.

Marshall expects repairs in Graeagle to get rolling in June, as Graeagle is currently the biggest member pocket. When it comes to Plumas Pines, Marshall warns that it will be a bit of a lengthy process to attend to all of the repairs needed, but it will get done. There is also work being done in Valley Ranch, on C-Road, Mohawk Estates and White hawk.

“Mohawk Valley and Graeagle are on the list as priorities for this year,” Marshall said. “We are building a complex solution to a complex problem in our area where it takes a variety of methods to get web access to all of Plumas and Sierra counties, such as fiber cable, microwave signals and coaxial cable. We know that we want to get Graeagle done in the earlier part of the summer, followed by Whitehawk. Plumas Pines is likely to happen later in the year, towards early fall.”

Marshall also spoke about the experiments that he and crewmembers have been running with cable television white space, starting with tests in Graeagle.

“The funny thing is, solid pine trees just hate radio frequencies — the trees just kill it. With white space however, there is a lower frequency, which travels better and punches right through trees and over humps. This may be the key to getting hard-to-reach member owners onto the system.”

Lake Davis, Greenhorn and Mohawk Vista — these are all areas that are heavily “treed” in, and may be perfect spots for white space frequencies to permeate.

“There are so many possibilities opening up to us at PST and we are excited to put what we can to use to get everyone online, and at high speeds of service,” Marshall concluded. PST encourages all to band together in areas that do not yet have web service, said Marshall.

“Neighbors have got to get together to make this happen,” Marshall said. “It makes a big difference when we have big groups lined up that all want Internet and are willing to work together to get it. Our ultimate goal is to get to every customer.”

For more information about PST, call 800-221-3474 or visit psrec.coop.