Providing universal and equal broadband (Internet) services in sparsely populated rural areas with our rugged Nevada County topology is a major challenge for our local service providers. Low-density isolated clusters/pockets of homes that are often found on larger acreage lots don’t provide an economy of scale for larger “wireline” providers to build their infrastructure (think AT&T, Comcast, Suddenlink).
Fixed Wireless providers need a mostly unobstructed direct line of sight from their tower to a home to provide service. Our diverse local topology places many homes in out-of-sight valleys, canyons, or depressions. The dense forests of large trees effectively block direct line of sight to wireless towers as well. Wired-line providers find it difficult to get access and run their “cable” through the topology and across numerous ravines. All together, these challenges create a patchwork of coverage and non-coverage areas across our county. It is common to find a home that has wireless or wired service, yet the next door neighbor cannot be served due to one of these challenges.
Due to these challenges, Nevada County struggles on several fronts. First, we need to achieve universal coverage to all homes and businesses. Second, we need to keep pace with the ever moving standard for minimal required broadband performance levels as they increase faster than our local broadband infrastructures can keep up with. Third, we need to bridge the economic barrier to affordable broadband services as they can cost more in rural communities due to the challenges above, pricing our lower income residents out of the market and prolonging our local digital divide gap.