Manager and President’s Message — August 2021
2020 was a productive year for Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications (PST). We made great progress constructing the five California Advanced Services Fund grant projects to extend broadband services to the hardest-to-reach areas of our region, including C Road, Mohawk Vista, Keddie, Lake Davis, Johnsville, Wingfield Road, Gold Run, and Johnstonville. We connected 980 customers to broadband service during the year.
Members outside of the grant areas will benefit from the fiber optic network being brought closer to more neighborhoods, which will improve wireless service as well as coaxial service. A good example of this is Plumas Eureka, where PST was able to extend fiber-optic service from the grant area to adjacent areas with its own funds.
PST applied for an additional six CASF grants for our region. Areas include Long Valley, Spring Garden, Greenhorn, Mohawk Valley, Portola, Scott Road, Sierra Valley, and southern Lassen County. We were awarded the Scott Road grant and will begin construction of that project as soon as environmental reviews are complete. We will find out if we will be awarded grant funding for the other projects by the end of 2021.
We are often asked why we didn’t get a grant for a specific area, even though we received a grant for a community nearby. State programs are specific about which areas are eligible for grant funding. They must be deemed unserved or underserved by the California Public Utilities Commission based on internet service provider reporting data on areas covered. Unfortunately, these areas are based on census blocks. If a provider serves one customer in a census block, the entire block is deemed to be served.
CPUC staff has been working to improve the mapping and process for determining areas that are eligible for grant funding. We continue to apply for state funding as it is available.
PST offers broadband services to Quincy and American Valley; parts of Cromberg/Sloat; Portola/Delleker; Mohawk Valley; Plumas Eureka; Johnsville; portions of C Road/Mohawk Vista; the Susan River Valley area, including Ward Lake and Gold Run; the southern part of Honey Lake Valley, including Doyle, Herlong, and the Sunnyside Road area; Red Rock; and Sierra Valley, including Calpine, Sattley, Sierraville and Sierra Brooks.
PST continues to improve its broadband networks. As with our electric system, we steadily improve all our systems and expand our coverage. We continue to prioritize our member-owners. PST is working with the electric side of the house on dual-purpose or hybrid projects where the electric cooperative gets expanded control of the electric grid, and PST rents some of the fiber to bring broadband to more members. We expect these types of projects to continue into the foreseeable future.
PST’s coaxial and wireless broadband services offer download speeds of up to 25 Mbps and 20 Mbps, respectively. Our fiber optic services can go as fast as 1 Gbps download, with dedicated business services available, if needed. With these speeds, you can stream videos on multiple devices at the same time without slowing down. You could even eliminate your cable or satellite TV bill with streaming services.
We know there have been some issues with capacity limits on our wireless system. We are implementing a new backbone system to resolve this issue. Hopefully it will be completely done by the annual meeting. We continue improving speeds for all our services.
At PST, we took a number of steps to limit exposure to COVID-19 for our customers and employees. We modified our practices and started installing equipment on the exterior of homes. COVID-19 interrupted the supply chain of some of the necessary equipment for this, but we still were able to increase the number of outside enclosures on homes as the year progressed.
PST installed new internet hot spots with improved outdoor range to allow people to work or participate in online education activities from their cars during the pandemic. PST hotspots are free to the public. Locations of all our hotspots throughout the region are at www.pst.coop.
PST is a provider for the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which offers a monthly service discount of up to $50 for qualified households. To find out if you are eligible, visit www.getemergencybroadband.org.
PST Board President