There’s nothing like a natural disaster to get a person thinking about resilience. In 2020, lightning struck and started a fire in some dry brush in a canyon near Davenport, and the fire spread and took out nearly a thousand houses. While the fire was spreading, PG&E, which owns and operates the power distribution network in the mountains, even though generation is provided by someone else, kept cutting the electricity off. Probably to keep the wires from dropping and starting more fires, but who knows? Anyway, the lack of electricity meant that water pressure pumps, wells, and thus in-home sprinkler systems were just so much metallic debris to be cleared along with the ashes of houses. As we rebuild, connecting to the electric grid that works unless you need it to is not part of our plan.
And then, there’s Internet and phone service. Cellular coverage in the mountains is spotty, and not really extant at our property. Getting decent speed up there is a challenge, as well. Currently, the only real option is Comcast, and that comes bundled with a few problems. It costs a lot, it’s only as reliable as the PG&E grid, it’s got pathetic upload bandwidth, and the shitty wiring means that service gets degraded whenever someone in the neighborhood turns on their A/C (that was the one downside to living near a grow house).
But that’s really the only game around. I mean, sure, we could go with Dish, but that’s got even worse upstream. And we’re too far from anything for DSL, even if the thought of a Zoom call over DSL didn’t give me headaches. And then, Ars Technica ran a story about a local-ish company the helps build out community owned fiber networks. This would in no-way be cheaper than Comcast, but it would absolutely have better customer service (I mean, it would be really very challenging to have worse) and the speeds would be amazing. I reached out to Next Level Networks to find out if there were already a group in/near Bonny Doon that I could hook up with. They said no, but if I could drum up enough support among my neighbors then they’d be happy to work with us.
I am not a good organizer. If I were, I’d still be on the board of my pipe band. However, I mentioned this to my wife and she said that a community co-op ISP would be fantastic and she’s all in favor. So maybe in Q2 of ’23 I’ll go start having conversations with neighbors. I think everyone will be happy to have multiple options available, because there’s nothing like an emergency to demonstrate just how much monopolies suck.