Downieville to get broadband
August 1, 2007
Downieville residents used to a slower pace of life are closer to receiving a higher-speed connection to the rest of the world thanks to a $37,000 loan for broadband Internet service. The U.S. Department of Agriculture made the loan program available to the Sierra Economic Development District in July. Mining and logging industries, once the foundation of towns such as Downieville and nearby Sierra City, are no longer profitable. Instead, the communities rely heavily on tourism and are looking at Internet-based businesses to jump start the economy and keep families from moving away.Yes we are desperate for it, said Mike Carnahan, owner of Riverside Inn in downtown Downieville where about 25 businesses cater to summer vacationers. Towns like ours all over the world are dying. He pays a hundred dollars a month for satellite Internet service so that his guests can stay connected to their jobs outside of the area. Connections are limited in remote Sierra County with a population of 3,555 people.County offices, the school district and banks are supplied high-speed services through so-called T-1 lines through the phone company. Others are lucky if they have access to slow dial-up, said Brent Smith, president of the Sierra Economic Development District. It’s problematic, Smith said. We’d like the entire population to have service.Phone company giants such as AT&T have the capability to provide DSL to remote areas, but in the past have only been enticed if the population density was large enough. There’s not enough of us, Carnahan said. We’re not regarded as a proper investment.