Latest News Update 1/21/2015

Obama's State of the Union Address and what his Broadband Initiative will mean for the Santa Cruz Mountains

Dear Santa Cruz County Mountain Fiber Group-
When we last talked in July, Surfnet had just received word that both the Central Coast Regional Fiber Project and Surfnet's Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) Projects in Monterey County had been approved. At that time, we were hoping to "rescue" the 2014 SCC Fiber Project, AND we were looking for interested mountain communities for the development of a new 2015 SCC Fiber Proposal. Well the President's timing and ours couldn't be better!! In December, Surfnet's long-awaited CPCN was authorized making Surfnet an official "Interexchange Carrier" in California. (That only took 1.5 years!! ☹) Obtaining the CPCN was an essential step in having the ability to use telephone poles to string fiber-just like any other utility company. We are now in position to do local fiber builds and actively work on a new 2015 SCC Fiber Proposal. Beginning February, Surfnet will be working on the 2015 SCC Fiber Proposals. We have the following outline of neighborhoods and people who have expressed an interest in helping to put these proposals together and get Fiber-To-The-Home in their neighborhood!

2014 SCC Fiber Rescue Project


2015 East-Side Project

2015 West Side Project


2015 Montevina Project


We are actively working with Sanjay on the 2014 SCC Fiber Rescue Project which has morphed into a self-funded, two-phase project involving Hester Creek and Robinwood Lane. We also are considering a self-funded reduced Spanish Ranch Project with Larry. Now that we can use telephone poles, anything is possible. Please let us know if you have continued interest and be prepared for additional contacts from the Surfnet Team.  
If you'd like to volunteer for your area, drop us a line at Fiber@SurfnetC.com and let us know.


   

Posted 6/25/2014
Surfnet's first Santa Cruz Mountain Fiber Community meeting

Monday night was Surfnet's first Santa Cruz Mountain Fiber Community meeting at the Radonich Ranch. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss some possible project plans as well as to gauge the community's interest in rescuing the Fiber Project that was halted by the Comcast partial build out last year. The main reason that our area has been overlooked by the "major players" in the past is due to the low density housing per Fiber mile. Installing the expensive infrastructure makes sense to the big corporations only in high density areas, where their return is sure to be higher. Mark Morgenthaler, Surfnet CEO, introduced several proposals that may work in our smaller, unique community. Most of the attendees were from the Hutchinson Road Area, while Loma Prieta Way, Adams Ridge, Hester Creek and Upper Zayante Roads were also represented. Lots of ideas and suggestions were exchanged as each region was individually addressed. A broad range of technical, logistical and financial information was discussed. Sanjay Khandelwal, who was a participant in the Mountain Broadband Group, made an excellent proposal for working with the various community groups. He suggested that it was best to allow the individual group leaders discuss the projects with the people in their neighborhoods and that Surfnet work indirectly through the neighborhood leaders. He felt that this developed the greatest neighborhood cohesion and best leveraged the talents and abilities of community members. As such, we have begun to try and identify Leaders for each of the neighborhoods in which we might be offering fiber.

° 2014 SCC Rescue Project
o Sanjay Khandelwal / Richard Montgomery
o Summit Woods -
o LP School - Tom Levenhagen
o Villa -

° 2015 East-Side Project
o Radonich Road - Bradford Radonich
o Spanish Ranch Road - Larry McVoy
o Mt Bache/Loma Ridge -

° 2015 Montevina Project
o Montevina Road
o Beardsley
o Thompson Road
o Las Cumbres

° 2015 Bear Creek Project
o Summit to Bear Creek
o Hutchinson Road - Michael Puckett
o Upper Ellen Road
o Upper Zayante - Mark Corbridge
o Bear Creek Way

If you'd like to volunteer for your area, drop us a line at Fiber@SurfnetC.com and let us know.
Thanks again to Radonich Ranch and everyone that made the time to come out to make this meeting a benefit to all.

   

Posted 4/14/2014
CPUC awards first broadband infrastructure subsidy to an independent ISP
By Stephen Blum, copied with permission from his Blog

A Two small Monterey County last mile projects are now proof of concept for both a key assumption and a major change for the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF).

Proposed by Surfnet Communications, Inc. and approved unanimously last week by the California Public Utilities Commission, the Monterey Dunes and Paradise Road projects validated the assumption that underpinned spending $10.6 million on a fiber link from Santa Cruz south through Monterey County to Soledad: that building middle mile links will lead to faster, cheaper and more reliable last mile service in underserved areas.

Although the Surfnet projects will only reach about 400 homes, it demonstrated that there is a market for dark fiber in the Salinas Valley, where 100,000 people lack access to the CPUC"s minimum standard of 6 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload speeds. That was a major difference between the successful Salinas Valley grant application and the failed Golden Bear middle mile proposal in northern California, which had no last mile element.

Surfnet is also the first CASF applicant to be approved without first qualifying for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) as a regulated telephone company. New rules adopted by the CPUC in February, as authorised by a new law -senate bill 740- last year, set strict standards for Internet service providers that don"t fit the traditional telco mold.

However, a lower entry bar appears to mean tougher scrutiny going forward, as commissioner Carla Peterman noted. "These funds are one of the first going to non-CPCN holders", she said. "So I'd like to emphasise that the monitoring of non-CPCN holders should receive by us under these is important".

Tellus Venture Associates assisted with several CASF proposals in the current round, including the Sunesys and Surfnet projects, so I'm not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it's worth.


    

Posted 4/11/2014
Central Coast lands state grant for regional fiber network Bringing high broadband access, speeds and affordability
Santa Cruz, California- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

A state grant for a 91-mile fiber optic network, bringing local-controlled and operated broadband infrastructure to Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey Counties was approved by CPUC at the end of last week and is expected to benefit local economy and communities with greater broadband access, higher Internet speeds, at a lower cost. A local Internet Service Provider, Surfnet Communications, teamed with Sunesys, a national fiber management firm, to win this $10.6 million grant, and will, for its part, be providing connection from this fiber network to two initial "last mile" communities. They plan to deliver 100Mbps at $65 to residents of those selected communities.

The grant is part of a state stimulus plan to help bring advanced information and communications technology services to areas of the state without adequate broadband capacity so essential to today's economic growth, job creation and other substantial social benefits. Pointing out that there are "still more jobs in agriculture" in the Salinas Valley than in any other sector, Commissioner Catherine Sandoval highlighted the acute need for better broadband access in the Salinas Valley. During the public meetings the CPUC held last year she declared, "This could be a game changer". She added, "This is a middle mile project, a back bone that is critical".

"That much bandwidth is a potential game changer" agrees Surfnet Communications President, Mark Morgenthaler. "Fiber is a 'total communications solution', not just better Internet connection. With high bandwidth fiber, people have the option to replace their home phone with low cost Internet enabled VoIP providers like Vonage or Skype. They can also get TV and other video content directly from many Internet TV providers like Netflix, Roku or Apple TV, reducing the customer's dependence on costly cable or satellite Triple Play bundles."

To that, Morgenthaler adds, "Local ISPs have traditionally been the companies dedicated to providing as much bandwidth as possible to underserved communities. The coming local fiber will enable these local ISPs to more affordably build lateral extensions and better serve their existing commercial and residential customers with very high speed broadband." Some 68 unserved and over 1,000 underserved census blocks have been identified along the corridor of the backbone. (Unserved & underserved designations mean having inadequate, unaffordable broadband access for today’s requirements, defined as <6Mbps.) Aptos supervisor Zach Friend, from Santa Cruz County, joined Monterey County supervisors Simon Salinas, Joseph Calcagno and Dave Potter in supporting the fiber project with the CPUC.

High support and expectations for Fiber Network


This Connected Central Coast Regional Fiber Project was substantially supported by the Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC), along with city mayors, county supervisors, universities and schools, local business councils and IT officials in the region. Considered by many the most significant improvement to the local broadband infrastructure in years, this project also will benefit major commercial and institutional customers all along its route, at wholesale rates up to ten times less than currently available from the major carriers. That should reduce dependence on those few incumbent carriers such at AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, encouraging competition and better choices for all in the region.

Maryanne Leffel of the Monterey County Business Council points out that "Broadband connectivity is essential for the future health of the Central Coast economy." Local government and major educational institution officials also see the project as a vital enabler for universities with programs requiring massive broadband capacity, such as the UCSC's Biotech program, or CSUMB's CETF programs.

Gonzales Councilman Robert Bonincontri and city manager Rene Mendez have identified the tremendous need for connectivity in the Salinas Valley, where unemployment rates are high and household income levels are low, even when work is available. "As more of our daily activities at home, school and at work depend on high performance broadband, it is essential for everyone to have this added local infrastructure available. It can help to close the 'digital divide" explained Arlene Krebs, Director of Wireless Education & Technology Center at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB).

Reducing dependence on established carriers

Joel Staker, Chairman of CCBC, sees the coming fiber network as a culmination of a 10-year effort to by representatives from counties, cities, universities and local ISPs to build a locally-owned and -operated broadband infrastructure for the Central Coast that would reduce costs and dependence on incumbent broadband carriers. Joel Staker, who is also Network Administrator for the City of Watsonville, and the CCBC Tech Expert Group, were essential to the project design and defense against the multiple challenges to the project from those established carriers. Steve De Franco from Sunesys worked to substantially reduce their proposed rates compared with standard rates from major carriers to help achieve the cost benefits. He added, "Sunesys also worked hard with local ISPs, such as Surfnet, to address affordable access, and increasing bandwidth requirements right to the home." The project is expected to take two years to build.

Sunesys has a good track record. The coming network will interconnect in Santa Cruz where Sunesys earlier built a dark fiber connection to Santa Clara in Silicon Valley. Since the Santa Clara connection was built 4-years ago, the price of wholesale Internet bandwidth in Santa Cruz has dropped by a factor of one hundred, to less than a dollar per megabit per month. Cruzio, a local ISP, leveraged this access to light up last mile fiber optic connections for downtown Santa Cruz businesses and improve speed and reliability for thousands of consumers. This new fiber backbone is expected to do the same for Salinas Valley communities.

"The key point for me was that typically these projects only make a price commitment for two years", said Commissioner Michel Florio. "In this case, the provider [Sunesys] has made a commitment for at least five years".  Mark Morgenthaler agrees, "This provides a solid foundation for a vibrant local ISP industry that can build the broadband infrastructure necessary to propel the Central Coast economy into the future."

The state has also announced another round of funding for 2014/15. This offers opportunities for additional funds to expand the backbone down to San Louis Obispo, and to build out more extensions to communities and residential neighborhoods along the route.

For more information, see Contacts Below:

Bojana Fazarinc – general (408) 353-5536

Mark Morgenthaler – Surfnet Communications (831) 439-7873

Joel Staker – Chairman CCBC (831-406-1044)
    

Posted 4/3/2014
Gonzales mayor makes the case for Salinas Valley broadband
By Stephen Blum, copied with permission from his Blog

Maria Orosco addressed the CPUC yesterday.

Gonzales mayor Maria Orosco and city manager Rene Mendez spoke on behalf of their community, the Salinas Valley and the entire central coast region yesterday, as they urged the California Public Utilities Commission to approve an $11 million grant to build a fiber optic broadband backbone system..

Mayor Orosco spoke to the Salinas Valley's need for twenty-first century broadband infrastructure and the benefits it would bring…

 Good morning, my name is Maria Orosco, mayor of the City of Gonzales. I'm also here to ask for your support for the broadband project. Broadband is as vital to our community as water is to our agricultural economy in the Salinas Valley.

This project will bring jobs and a better life to hundreds and thousands of our residents.

     "Students now cannot do their homework, parents do not have access to services when they have to access the Internet for these services. It makes it challenging and difficult. Without broadband in our communities it will certainly make it more challenging for many of our residents. Businesses in Gonzales are also faced with the challenge of not being able to have certain services that they need, without broadband. So these are some of the things that are a necessity for us in our communities, and we encourage you to approve the funding that is being requested today. Thank you."

Commissioners were generally supportive of the grant, and acknowledged both the needs of the Salinas Valley and the benefits the project would bring. But they delayed a vote on the project until 10 April 2014, in order to take a second look at the numbers.

   


Salinas Valley fiber optic project gets CPUC support, but final vote postponed
By Stephen Blum, copied with permission from his Blog

"I think this is a great project and I want to see it happen", said commissioner Michel Florio, as the California Public Utilities Commission discussed an $11 million proposal to build a fiber optic backbone down the Salinas Valley. "I drive through that area regularly. I know the geography, it's the 101 corridor. It is in many respects a low income area".

But he wasn't completely sold on the numbers, questioning the length of time it would take for the applicant, Sunesys LLC, to see a return on its investment in the project, if 83% of the construction cost was subsidised by the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). By one reckoning it would take 5 years for Sunesys to start showing a profit, which, to Florio, indicated that the subsidy level might be too high. Other estimates went as long as 12 years, depending on the assumptions made.

Earlier in the meeting, Gonazales mayor Maria Orozco and city manager Rene Mendez spoke passionately about the benefits the project will bring to the Salinas Valley- I'll have more on those comments tomorrow. CPUC staff also walked commissioners through a presentation outlining the project and the logic behind the higher level of funding that commission president Michael Peevey proposed. Normally, CASF subsidies are limited to 60% to 70% of infrastructure costs.

He agreed with Florio's request to postpone a vote for two weeks to the 10th of April, in order to see if money might be saved. "I'm not interested in any wholesale hatchet job on the costs here, I think we can use a scalpel", Peevey said.

Florio reiterated his overall support for the project, and seemed confident ultimate agreement on the details was possible. "I hope everyone can sharpen their pencils and shave this back a little bit", he said, and come up with a plan that's "not quite as rich but still gets the job done".

     Tellus Venture Associates assisted with several CASF proposals in the current round, including the Sunesys project, so I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.




CPUC considers Salinas Valley fiber project tomorrow
By Stephen Blum, copied with permission from his Blog

Building better infrastructure.

An $11 million proposal to build a fiber optic backbone connecting the Salinas Valley to Silicon Valley, by way of Santa Cruz, goes inf front of the California Public Utilities Commission tomorrow morning. A decision might or might not come. Commissioner Michel Florio has asked that the vote be delayed until next month, although that could change as the proposal is discussed.

CPUC president Michael Peevey is proposing to subsidise 83% of construction costs- grants from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) are usually limited to the 60% to 70% range- because of the social and economic impact the project would have. Those benefits will be underscored by Gonzales mayor Maria Orozco, who will be representing her city and the Central Coast Broadband Consortium at the meeting. Along with a couple dozen other regional leaders she endorsed the project, which will be built by Sunesys LLC and deliver dark fiber to Gonzales, Soledad, Chualar, Castroville and other underserved communities in Monterey County.

Aptos supervisor Zach Friend, the man behind the push to reform broadband infrastructure policy in Santa Cruz County, joined Monterey County supervisors Simon Salinas, Joseph Calcagno and Dave Potter in sending a letter of support to the commission…

    Without question, the communities that would be served by this project currently lack broadband access common through much of the urban corridors in the state. This lack of access puts the thousands of students and local residents at a disadvantage compared to those who live in areas where adequate levels of broadband service are available.

Two other Monterey County CASF projects, both proposed by Surfnet Communications, are also on the commission’s agenda, but those are tied to the Salinas Valley dark fiber project and could be delayed as well. I’ll post an update as soon as the commission decides tomorrow.

     Tellus Venture Associates assisted with several CASF proposals in the current round, including the Sunesys project, so I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.




Cash offered to big incumbent ISPs to upgrade bandwidth
By Stephen Blum, copied with permission from his Blog

The fight over who pays for the Internet has moved deeper inside the network. Cogent  and Level 3 are two companies that provide much of the backbone transport for major last mile Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. They're accusing the big ISPs of, in effect, holding millions of consumers hostage in order to force others- backbone companies and content providers like Netflix, in particular- to pay the cost of upgrading their systems to support the continuing boom in Internet traffic.

Both Cogent and Level 3 have asked the FCC to do something about it. But Cogent is also putting money on the table, offering to pay for the capital costs of upgrading ISPs connections to its network. In a press release, the company tries to draw a line between that offer and the pay-for-play arrangements that are at the heart of the current network neutrality debate in Washington…

     Cogent is simply willing, at this time, to incur the capital costs associated with augmenting its interconnections with these networks to address the current level of traffic congestion. Cogent believes that these major telephone and cable companies are attempting to leverage their monopoly on broadband residential Internet connections to increase their profits by imposing tolls on traffic requested by their customers and delivered by other Internet service providers.

AT&T's senior in-house lobbyist, Jim Cicconi, has fired back, using Netflix as an example and saying that if you watch a movie, you should pay for the cost of delivering it…

     When Netflix delivered its movies by mail, the cost of delivery was included in the price their customer paid. It would've been neither right nor legal for Netflix to demand a customer's neighbors pay the cost of delivering his movie.

There's much more behind the debate; if you're interested Ars Technica has an excellent article summing up the recent back and forth.




Posted 2/25/2014
The Internet has Run Out of IP Addresses, REALLY!!
In the early days, Internet traffic was sent from device to device by using numerical addresses similar to telephone numbers- except with a few more digits. These addresses are known as Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses. The number of digits in IPv4 provided just over four billion unique addresses. The inventors were convinced that this would be sufficient space to run the internet for a long period of time, this turned out to be untrue. The available pool of IP addresses for most of the world were exhausted in 2011. The remaining continental regions are carefully doling out the few remaining addresses in their possession. So now what is going to happen?

A new version of address space was invented to resolve this problem, known as IPv6. The internet community is attempting to deploy this new space as quickly as possible. However, not all devices connected to the Internet can "speak" to IPv6 devices because of hardware limitations. In the meantime various workarounds are being used to bridge this gap; but that is not what this article is about.

What is important to know is that service providers, like Surfnet, have sufficient IPv4 address space to run their network and allow connectivity of their customers' traffic to the Internet. Surfnet recognized this need and began the process of securing its own IPv4 address space from the last few pools reserves that are available with the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN). Clearly, these numbers are given out sparingly and an evident need must be demonstrated. This article is to inform you that Surfnet's application was considered by ARIN to be of critical need and as a result we were awarded sufficient space to continue operations for some time to come.

So what next for the technical team here at Surfnet? We will continue to make available iIPv4 address to qualifying customers as well as prepare to deploy IPv6 addresses into our network. This will require that some equipment will need to be replaced even before end of its functional life. This is a very expensive proposition but we are committed to providing our customers with the most efficient, state of the art, connectivity to the Internet.

Additionally, we advise our customers to confirm that they too are ready for this eventual conversion. Many small commercial network devices and most residential devices are not IPv6 compatible. We strongly recommend that if you need to purchase a new device or replacement device that you confirm that it is IPv6 compatible.



Posted 1/28/2014

Helpful Tools
How to Avoid Bandwidth Overages

Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including Surfnet, have to charge overage fees to customers who download excessively large numbers of files. This is often called a data cap and is contractually spelled out in the service agreement. This is an essential part of any ISP's role as a network operator to ensure that there is sufficient bandwidth for all of its user to have a reasonable experience as they download content.

On the other hand streaming content providers, such as Netflix, recognize that customer satisfaction for its streaming products is dependent on one variable that they cannot control; the Internet. Specifically, they know that bottlenecks within the internet will cause video to distort and even halt entirely if the connection isn't both stable and robust. With the ever growing rise in the popularity of on-demand programming comes the challenge to Internet Service Providers (like Surfnet) to meet the needs of its clients.

It is our desire to have each and every one fully enjoy the benefits of their individual video subscription plans. Surfnet has recently doubled its bandwidth caps for our customers to help satisfy this demand. However, the bandwidth demands are continually rising. The traffic load that originally consisted of YouTube videos, VoIP and Internet radio stations- now includes television and satellite programming, feature length HD films, DVDs, and more. Today, Netflix traffic constitutes nearly half of the Internet bandwidth usage in the U.S.

Some customers have voiced concerns regarding their ability to stay within their monthly plan's parameters. We would like to call your attention to one tool that will help. Netflix has made it easier to control how much video data you download. It allows users to dictate how much of their monthly transfer Netflix can deliver, per hour. This feature can be accessed via your account settings in your Netflix account. Here is a quick link: https://support.netflix.com/en/node/87 that provides more detail.

You can also monitor your current monthly usage of your Surfnet account by going to the "My Account" section on our website: http://www.surfnetusa.com/account.asp




Posted 12/28/2013
The Surfnet Fiber update
While Surfnet has been specifically dedicated to providing wireless broadband to our mountain community, we have also realized that the long-term solution to the Central Coast's broadband needs would require a regional fiber infrastructure! Finally, after six years and the efforts of many, the project appears to be headed for approval at the CPUC.

Surfnet has been working with UCSC and the CCBC on an $11M regional fiber backbone to provide improved broadband services to under-served local communities all along the central coast. This public/private project is seen as critical to the UCSC's Bio-Tech Program and to the Central Coast's overall economic development. We are happy to report that the chances of its approval are looking very good. This project will enable local ISPs (like Surfnet, Cruzio, etc.) to provide improved services in communities which they have traditionally served and will break the monopoly on backhaul enjoyed by the large carriers. This backhaul monopoly costs our local governments, schools, and hospitals millions in annual communication expenses and assures that the profits derived from Central Coast residents are spent elsewhere.

Surfnet has taken a leadership role in supporting this regional project by applying for several "last-mile" lateral projects to build fiber-to-the-home in some previously under-served communities in Monterey County. We will be providing those residents with 100Mbps FTTH at a very competitive monthly rate with no installation fee.

We had hoped to provide similar services in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but the County's decision to go ahead with the limited Comcast build has derailed our proposed Santa Cruz Mountains Project. We were offered almost $1M in funding for the Santa Cruz project, but are still hoping to rescue part of that proposal in hopes of *at least* getting a local fiber backhaul for our existing wireless network. We expect official word early next year.

Over the years, the improvements we continue to make to the network and your continued support have made possible even better broadband services! We remain dedicated to providing this community's broadband services.