The battle for better connectivity in Rural California

Over the last decade, California’s urban centers have become technology hubs, cities where free Wi-Fi and fiber-optic lines are ubiquitous. But in low-income neighborhoods, across the state’s inland regions, and in rural communities — often home to large migrant populations — families struggle to connect at all.

Some elected officials see that reality as proof that a digital divide is leaving many people behind. And they’ve set out to remedy it.

In 2007, the state established the California Advanced Services Fund to offer companies incentive to help bridge the gap. The program has allowed broadband providers to apply for nearly $300 million in grants to bring fiber optic, copper, and other cable lines to some of the poorest and hardest-to-reach regions in the state.

The goal was to connect 98% of the 12.9 million homes across California, one that as of 2016 was within a few percentage points of being fulfilled. But while nearly 12.3 million homes in urban areas had some form of wireline broadband service by that year, less than half of roughly 680,900 households in rural areas had been connected.

This month, the reboot of the CASF program, which began in 2017, continues, with a new round of comments and suggestions landing at the California Public Utilities Commission. While incumbent and independent providers such as Race attempt to navigate the new bill, many California residents continue to pay too much for poor internet service. Many of the issues boil down to incumbent providers not fulfilling their end of the deal.

For example, when the CPUC allowed Frontier Communications to buy Verizon’s wireline systems in California, it imposed a long list of conditions, including commitments made as part of settlements reached with organizations that objected to the deal. Some of those obligations required Frontier to upgrade broadband service to more than 800,000 homes. In a recent complaint filed with the CPUC, the California Emerging Technology Fund claimed that Frontier “does not intend to honor” its commitments, including, among other things, the upgrade schedule it offered in 2016.

In addition, Frontier Communications failed to meet California phone service repair standards in 2017. It’s supposed to restore service within a certain amount of time 90% of the time in any given month, in every one of its Californian service territories. According to two draft resolutions currently with the CPUC, two of Frontier’s three subsidiaries missed the mark every single month.

Race Communications is dedicated to providing reliable, high-speed internet and advanced communications at an affordable price. Working in partnership with the California Public Utilities Commission and a number of non-profit community advocacy groups, Race focuses much of its efforts towards building out fiber networks and offering gigabit internet service to communities throughout California. As the battle continues for better connectivity, Race will continue to work towards its goal and mission to provide the best in Internet technology and customer service.

sources:
latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-digital-divide-rural-communities-20180118-htmlstory.html
https://www.tellusventure.com/blog/page/3/

Race Back2School Event: Phelan, CA

Race believes in community engagement and strives to attend as many community events as possible. In addition, Race does its best to give back to the communities where the company offers service.

This year, the company decided to do something new for two of their communities – a backpack giveaway for residents in Phelan and Boron, CA. The first event took place in Phelan and was a huge success. 100 backpacks were given out to children of all ages!

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The Race team showed up bright and early to start setting up for the event. Boxes of backpacks, school supplies, and water bottles were unpacked, banners were hung and the A/C was turned on. By 5pm, residents of Phelan began to show up and formed a neat line outside the new Race field office.

 

Water bottles and tickets were given to all those who were in line until supplies ran out – It didn’t take long for 100 tickets to be claimed and soon, children were filling the office alongside their parents ready to get their school supplies!

 

Jr. Miss Phelan was in attendance as well as writers and photographers from the local newspapers. It was a whirlwind event and by 7pm, all backpacks and school supplies had been handed out.

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The Race team had an absolute blast and looks forward to next week’s backpack giveaway in Boron, CA. The event in Boron, CA is taking place next Tuesday and is open to residents in Boron, Randsburg, Red Mountain and Johannesburg. The event will be held at the Boron Community Park from 5-7pm.

After such a successful event, Race is considering a repeat next year!

Race Communications’ Summer Review.

2018 has been filled with releases, events, and expansion for Race Communications. In May, the company officially opened a new office in Tehachapi, CA where the company has a strong fiber footprint in the outlying communities of Stallion Springs, Brite Valley, Oak Knolls and Bear Valley Springs. Race has hired several local residents to build their marketing and sales team and is revving up their efforts in their service areas in the High Desert and Central Valley.

The month of May also brought the release of the first part of the “Gigafy Phelan” project, a hard-fought project that was approved in July 2017, after years of challenges and obstacles.

Since June 2018, Race has installed 98% of the residents who had previously inquired about service in the released zone – the release came two full months ahead of the initial target date of August 2018. “Gigafy Phelan” was not the only project to be released – the “Gigafy Occidental” project in Northern California was also released and installs began immediately. At this time over 70 percent of the community has signed up for services from Race.

The release of these communities has given Race the momentum to continue their expansion and Race opened a new field operations office in Phelan, CA and marked the occasion with a BBQ Kick-Off and ribbon cutting ceremony on June 21st. The company was recognized by Congressman Cook’s office for their efforts in the area and for their continued work in rural unserved and underserved areas across the state.

 

Race looks forward to the second half of 2018 and continued progress. Race is on a mission to provide affordable high-speed broadband to the communities where larger carriers have ignored the needs of the residents. Race will continue to support net-neutrality, promote broadband access and adoption, and will continue to seek out new projects in unserved and underserved regions in California.

Finally, a big THANK YOU to those who have chosen Race as their new service provider as we could not have done this without you. Our customers are part of the Race family, and we look forward to providing our customers with the newest technology and the friendly customer service they have come to know.  Stay tuned for more exciting news from Race as the year progresses!

 

What is fiber optics and why is it better than copper?

Today, your Internet and TV services are probably connected to your home via copper wires. This technology has been around for over a hundred years, and it certainly wasn’t built for today’s uses and demands. Race Communications recognizes this and is working to build a network that will provide fiber optic internet to homes across the state of California. Now you may be wondering, what is fiber optic technology and is it better than copper? If so, why?

Fiber optic technology is far better and faster than copper at transmitting information, such as the bits that make up your favorite websites, Netflix shows, or online games. Fiber-optic cables are made of glass, and they use lasers to transmit information — close to the speed of light!

Investing in fiber-optic networks can significantly increase bandwidth potential and reliability. As mentioned earlier, copper infrastructure is limited because it was originally designed for transmitting the telegram! Think about that! The same infrastructure has been in use since the telegram – no wonder most homeowners are familiar with the slowdown that occurs when the clock hits 6:00 pm and everyone is home from work.

The signal for copper networks degrades as the signal is carried from the central office (CO) so distance is a huge factor in your internet’s performance. In contrast, when traveling over a long distance, fiber optic cables experience less signal loss than copper cabling. This is known as low attenuation. It is estimated that fiber loses only three percent signal strength going over 320 feet in distance. By contrast, copper loses 94 percent over the same distance.

While not everyone needs gigabit — or 1,000 megabits per second — the move to faster speeds is inevitable, and more companies are trying to offer these services, just look at Spectrum and Comcast. However, these providers do not use fiber optic technology and instead rely on the old copper wires. This means that the speeds will rarely (if ever) be symmetrical, data caps will apply and reliability will be an issue.

There are a number of factors that can cause outages when a company relies on a copper network – temperature fluctuations, severe weather conditions, and moisture can all cause a loss of connectivity. Old or worn copper cable can even present a fire hazard, due to the fact it carries an electric current – since fiber is made of glass it doesn’t present the same hazard!

Fiber optics is an amazing technology, but unfortunately, very few homes have direct access to fiber networks today. This is in large part due to the resource-intensive process of deploying new infrastructure – but Race Communications hasn’t let that slow us down, thanks to grants and partnerships with public and private entities!

If you are lucky enough to live in one of our fiber communities, don’t hesitate!

Submit an inquiry today to find out if you live in our fiber footprint (or if we are coming to a neighborhood near you soon) – or give us a call at 877-722-3833 to place your order!

Sources:
https://smallbiztrends.com/2015/08/fiber-optic-copper-wireless-internet-transmission-methods.html
https://www.atlantech.net/blog/8-advantages-of-fiber-optic-internet-over-copper-cable

What does it take to get installed?

Bringing our services to a community is a resource-intensive project that requires careful research and planning. From start to finish there are 4 main phases of our process, each with its own sub-steps and processes.

  1. Research and Exploration.
    We spend a lot of time in this phase, developing a construction plan for the communities we are researching and working with local authorities on permitting and other issues.
  2. Design.
    We use the data gathered to create a map of where we can build based on existing infrastructure and obstacles.
  3. Construction.
    This is the step you see the most. Once our plans are complete, our crews get straight to work laying and splicing miles of fiber.
  4. Sign up and Installation.
    Once our construction is almost complete, we will release our order form for your region, and you can choose the services you want for your home or business. This will initiate the installation process which has its own steps.

A Preliminary Site Survey is Conducted

Race field engineers survey homes throughout a project area (for example Occidental or Phelan), house by house and make an initial determination as to whether a home is an aerial or underground installation.

The Steps to bringing you Fiber:

Step 1: Designing the network. At this stage, we determine the path and size of fiber cables in our network as well as identifying the size and location of connection points (where homes and businesses will hook up to). This is a long process and can take anywhere from 6-12 months to complete depending on the area size.

Step 2: Pole licensing and ordering materials. Utility poles are owned by telephone and power companies. Third party users like RACE must apply and pay a fee to attach. This is also the time we go ahead and order the materials needed for the project.

Step 3: Make-ready. This is one of the most time-consuming and expensive parts of the process accounting for up to 40% of the cost. The make-ready process consists of making room for the new lines on poles, which could involve moving cable TV up, the phone company down, or both. If the pole is too small or too full, it may need to be replaced. Replacing poles is expensive due to the involved process of setting the new pole and transferring all of the phone, TV, and power lines.

Step 4: Hang strand on utility poles. Fiber optic cables need to be supported by a steel cable, or “strand.” Installers in bucket trucks will drill a hole through the pole and install a bolt that attaches the steel strand to the pole. Then they hang the strand on the pole.

Step 5: Lash fiber cable to strand. The fiber-optic cables are attached to the strand by being lashed on with wire. This is done using a cable lasher which is pulled along the length of the fiber cable and strand.

Step 6. Add splice and connection points. Splice cases and slack loops are added at various points along the network. The splice case is where each section of the fiber optic cable is joined together, while the slack loop provides some extra fiber cable to facilitate restoration of service in the event the cable is damaged.

Step 7. Splice fiber segments. To join lengths of fiber together, a technician heats up the ends of the fiber strands and fuses them together to form a single strand.

We Call Customers that have submitted an inquiry
This information is handed over to our communications team who will reach out to homeowners who have inquired about Race services.

To Submit an inquiry, go to https://www.race.com/inquiry/ .

Step 8: Install drop cables. Once the network backbone is constructed, small fiber cables are connected to the backbone and the customer’s building. These drops can be aerial or in a conduit, depending upon how the customer’s current utilities reach their home.

Step 9: Install electronics and light your network. Specialized electronics are needed at both ends of the fiber-optic cable to “light” the fiber and provide a usable Internet connection. This includes Optical Network Terminal (“ONT”) at the customer’s home or office. ONT’s typically provide multiple places to connect Internet devices and phones. Once the devices are placed, engineers program and activate the service so that it can be connected to your computer or Wi-Fi router.