The Obstacle is the Way: Nevada City’s Journey to Get Rural Broadband

The Obstacle is the Way: Nevada City’s Journey to Get Rural Broadband

January 21, 2021

Nevada City, Cali., might not be large, but its history is rich.

Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, this small community came to be during the Gold Rush. It was one of the first communities in the world to have electricity and long-distance calling—thanks to the gold mines—and is now embarking on another connectivity journey: fiber internet.

At a this week’s Fiber for Breakfast live video episode, John Paul, chief business development officer and co-founder at Spiral Fiber, Inc., spoke about what it’s been like to bring fiber to the rural homes in and outside of Nevada City and how it’s hoping to bring the town into the 21st Century.

“What we’re doing here is building networks that are 50 to 100 years futureproof,” he said. “It’s imperative to do fiber.”

Formerly known as Spiral Internet, Paul and his team started seeking out fiber back in 2010. They provided other internet service types—including DSL—but after Google Fiber announced they were looking to implement a fiber optic system in one lucky city, Paul saw an opportunity. It was through that bid he and city officials realized they could build something right in their own backyard.

“We said, ‘Hey, why can’t that be us?’” Paul said.

They started by educating the public—and themselves—on how fiber worked. From there, they gained support from residents and government officials in building out a fiber plan that made the most sense for the surrounding communities. With the greenlight, Paul said he looked to investors to help fund his vision and partners to help build it—including looking at other middle mile projects in California.

 Once people started to understand the possibilities fiber could offer, they quickly came on board.

“It’s important to organize a community around this, so they understand why fiber is different,” he said. “The same goes for vendors. Traditional marketing is okay—but I really think it does take a team of people to do this.”

This coming year, Spiral Fiber continues to go full speed ahead. The company plans to begin construction on an underground fiber optic internet network that will connect 10,000 homes and 400 businesses in and around Nevada City. They will offer 10 gig symmetric fiber.

It couldn’t come at a better time, too. Because of the pandemic, people are forced to work and learn from home. And because of its close proximity to San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, many are relocating to the idyllic town—which means a need for internet.

He said existing customers are abuzz about the project’s expansion, and he hopes the excitement draws more economic opportunities for Nevada City and the surrounding area.

“Everybody wants it,” he said. “We’re going to attract more business here. We do have a vibrant tech industry, and beyond that, we’re touristy—which is good. But I think it will change the economy in a way that hasn’t happened since the Gold Rush.”