Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is broadband?
The term “broadband” commonly refers to high-speed internet access that is always on and faster than traditional dial-up access. Broadband includes several high-speed transmission technologies, such as fiber, wireless, satellite, digital subscriber line and cable.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sets the standard for who is considered “served” versus “unserved” in the world of internet access. You must have internet speeds of at least 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up in order to be considered “served” by the FCC.
The United States Senate is pushing to have that increased to 100 Mbps up / 100 Mbps down in order to account for the increased use of real-time video streaming for things like online learning, telehealth appointments, remote work, etc.
For those wanting to do a deeper dive into broadband terminology, how networks are built and operate, and more, this document from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is a great resource.
2. What does it mean that broadband is a “board objective”?
Each January, the Board of Supervisors sets their priorities for new year during a three-day workshop that reviews the previous year’s objectives and staff recommendations for policy and programmatic direction in the new year. Board objectives address community challenges and are used to help direct County budgeting, operations, programs, and services.
The broadband objective:
“Equitably expand broadband to support economic development, distance-learning, telework, telemedicine, and general quality of life for all residents by championing the implementation of Nevada County Broadband Strategy Plan policies and last-mile infrastructure projects.”
3. Why do so many residents in Nevada County lack broadband or high-speed internet?
- Topography: it’s more difficult and expensive to build a network in rugged terrain.
- Affordability (to the end user): given the higher prices to build and operate networks in rural areas, as well as the lack of provider competition, service prices are likely to be higher and, therefore, unaffordable for some households.
- Population density: there are fewer residents to serve in rural areas, which means fewer potential customers for internet service providers.
- Economics of deploying broadband infrastructure: There is a higher cost to build network infrastructure in less densely populated rural areas. One possible result is that the private sector will choose not to offer services in low-density areas, or will only do so with grant money to subsidize construction costs. If a provider does offer service, it is under no obligation to continue providing internet access, even if it is the only provider in a community. Competition among providers is also more difficult in these communities because they offer thinner profit margins and require large capital investments.
4. What is being done now to help expand broadband access in Nevada County?
In 2021, the federal government passed legislation that allocated $65 billion dollars for broadband expansion. Subsequently, in July 2021, the California legislature passed SB 156, legislation that makes a historic $6 billion multi-year investment to significantly expand internet access throughout the state.
Nevada County is exploring all options to make use of this potential funding, including the following programs:
- Additional rounds of the County’s last-mile grant program
- Development of a line extension grant program
- Development of a programmatic environmental impact report (EIR), which will help expedite future broadband projects in the county
- Conducting a survey to better understand the landscape of internet access in the county and prioritize future projects
- Staying in touch with internet service providers (ISPs) to track potential opportunities for partnership
5. My DSL service has been or will be cancelled in the near future. What is Nevada County doing to help people like me?
We understand that DSL service is being decommissioned in some parts of Nevada County. We are as frustrated and concerned as you are with this unfortunate news. Your local county government has very little control over this, as telecommunications are not regulated at the county level. In fact, federal law does not allow the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate broadband as we regulate other public utilities (think electricity, water, phones) and does not prevent carriers from decommissioning older networks without replacing them.
We suggest that anyone affected by this change take these steps:
- Search for other telecommunications providers serving your area. See this list for other service providers in Nevada County and share information with your neighbors. A Truckee resident tells us that after her DSL was decommissioned, her household switched to a T-Mobile 5G Gateway.
- Be prepared to receive news about emergencies via radio. Tune in to KVMR (89.5 FM), KNCO (830 AM), or KTKE (101.5 FM) for updates. On Red Flag Warning days, stay connected with neighbors and keep a radio on.
- Collaborate with neighbors to establish a local radio network for emergencies. Some communities are working to close the communications gap by using privately purchased two-way FM radios to communicate as a neighborhood. These radios can be used to quickly pass information about a new fire start in your area. When coupled with a communications plan and a neighborhood watch program these radios can be very effective. This article offers information on setting up such a network in your neighborhood.
- Utilize co-working spaces and public computer facilities. There are at least two co-working establishments in Nevada City and Grass Valley (Sierra Commons and The Workspace). Additionally, public computers are available for free at all Nevada County Library locations. Computer use is limited to two, one-hour sessions per day. Chromebooks and Macbooks are available for in-library use for two-hour time blocks; patrons must have a library card or photo identification. The libraries also offer free WiFi (to use with your own device) with no time limit.
- If you are losing your phone service and alternative service is not available, contact the FCC and the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) immediately. File comments with the FCC here and file a complaint with the CPUC here. (This applies to a wireline phone service – a.k.a., plain old telephone service or POTS.)
For those of you in this frustrating situation, help us better understand exactly which areas are losing DSL service by filling out this excellent survey set up by YubaNet.
Meanwhile, Nevada County leaders will continue to work to expand broadband access across Nevada County. Visit our broadband webpage for more information on what we have done and are currently doing in this area.
6. How can I see the information on who is considered “served” and “unserved” by the State of California?
Please refer to State of CA map of who is served and unserved: https://www.broadbandmap.ca.gov/. If you look up your address, you may find that you disagree with the map.
7. I looked up my address on the state map and information there about my internet options is not correct. How do I report it?
Submit a correction through the map’s feedback tool at https://www.broadbandmap.ca.gov/
There are a few online tools to measure your internet service speed. This tool from speedtest.net provides the service free of charge.
8. What can residents do to help the county get better internet for all?
- Fill out Nevada County’s "Need for Speed" broadband survey.
- Take CPUC’s “CalSPEED test” (which reports the results straight into their database)
- Review and comment on the state’s map of who is served / unserved: https://www.broadbandmap.ca.gov/
- Write to California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)*:
505 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102
5. Write to your state legislators:
Assemblywoman Megan Dahle
State Capitol, Suite #4116
Sacramento, CA 94249
Phone: (916) 319-2001
Senator Brian Dahle
11310 McCourtney Road, Unit E2/E3
Grass Valley, CA 95949
Phone: (530) 271-1022
9. I have an idea for bringing broadband to Nevada County through a neighborhood organization or private company. Who should I talk to?
If you have not done so already, please send an inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be in touch in 3-5 business days.