Alice Perez, external affairs manager for AT&T, spoke to the Plumas County Board of Supervisors on July 18 concerning outages in the county and what AT&T is doing to improve service in the county.
Supervisor Sherrie Thrall asked Perez about what happened during seven to eight days in the winter and during the High Sierra Festival in June when her constituents lost service.
Perez explained that a microwave tower had been upgraded, but that the upgrade failed and the tower had to be re-upgraded. Perez said that AT&T decided that its networks responded well during the music festival.
Connect America funds
Perez said that AT&T is looking for four to five new sites to provide broadband to hard-to-reach areas in the county. The company hopes to announce the first sites for towers in August.
She cautioned, however, that Connect America funds are not targeted to a given geographic area, but rather to the largest number of households and businesses that can be connected.
Perez added that telecommunication corporations do receive extra funding for connecting to “high-cost areas.”
Connect America is federal funding, through the Federal Communications Commission, to subsidize broadband connections to the Internet for un-connected populations.
The promise of new technology: AirGig
AT&T has a new project, called AirGig that it hopes will one day deliver low-cost, multi-gigabit wireless Internet speeds to isolated rural areas using existing power lines. This would be far less costly than burying fiber lines or building more cell towers.
Although AT&T announced this new technology last September, the company has yet to announce any field tests.
Perez announced that AT&T has the contract to develop the first nationwide public safety broadband network, FirstNet, to provide communications to first responders nationwide.
FirstNet, was started by congress in 2012 in response to supposed failures of communications during 9/11, 11 years earlier. Congress allocated $7 billion and 20 MHz of public radio spectrum to get the system up and running.
The idea is that a private corporation would pay the federal government over $5.6 billion to be able to build the system and use the bandwidth. The corporation could then sell the service to first responders nationwide.