Spiral Internet Service in Nevada City, California Your Local Community Internet Service Provider
   Connectivity in Western Nevada County - what are the options?           by Chip Carman May 2005-2006  
Wired and Wireless
Blue is not just the pristine air, but where streams of data dance into the sky...

Western Nevada County’s in-place and expanding telecommunications infrastructure is providing local businesses global access to existing and emerging markets. In addition to multiple Internet service providers, businesses have access to a wide range of high speed data services, including:

• Fiber optics: Telephone and cable
• Frame relay
• ISDN and faster DSL by multiple providers
• Dedicated T-1 and fractional T-1 services by multiple providers
• Cable High Speed Internet
• Fixed Wireless Broadband

Whether it's a T1 line extending itself to rural home-based businesses that offer broadband via WiFi to other entrepreneurs in the neighborhood or the installation of a cell tower that cleverly blends into the forested geography - Nevada County is wired. The downtown districts are covered by wireless Internet access.

Internet access in our geographically diverse area of hills and trees and low population density can be both a technical and a business challenge.  Most anyone can utilize the slower dial-up connections, but DSL and cable may only be offered in more densely populated neighborhoods and downtown areas of Grass Valley and Nevada City.  If you are beyond DSL and cable, you may want to consider Satellite service, or if you have a collection of neighbors you could consider creating and sharing a “neighborhood  network”.  Often, we hear of new residents wanting “faster than DSL” speeds they were accustomed to in metropolitan areas; if you can not get DSL in your neighborhood, your next best option is probably a T1 – but remember the local loop charge in a rural area will often be the same or higher than the cost of the T1 charge. Larger business will most likely have a network administrator who will be familiar with an array of enterprise solutions.

Nevada County has been an innovator in the past. Gold was the allure, and early-adopted telephones piped critical information to the miners needing an advance warning system. Today, water and  telecommunications infrastructure is the gold of Nevada County. Like the telephone lines in the past, our digital pipes keep us informed; as well as help cultivate, attract, and retain our innovators.


1 IDSL - ISDN Digital Subscriber Line, a way of providing DSL over existing ISDN lines. The transfer rates for IDSL is about the same as ISDN and only carries data, but the connection is always-on and has a flat billing rate.
2 Must have clear view to satellite and snow or heavy rain usually affect service.
3 DSL - digital subscriber line.
   ADSL - Asymetrical DSL. It can download faster than upload. Less expensive. Usually in residential.
   SDSL - Symetrical DSL. Same bandwidth in both directions. More common for business use.
4 Everyone on cable shares bandwidth. So if a lot of people in your neighborhood are using the service performance can be much slower.
5 T1 prices have dropped, but the local loop in rural areas can be expensive - nearly doubling the price of similar service in a metropolitain area.
6 Wireless availability is usaually line-of-sight, but with right antennas, boosters, and repeaters service is available even through trees in all but the heaviest rain and snow.


Cellular Data: Check out the article, "Using a High-Speed Wireless Card" by Brian Jepson, in the premiere issue of of Make: technology on your time (Vol. 1, Feb. 2005, O'Reilly Media). The article gives an overview of various cellular data services, costs, performance, the new 1xEV-DO service from Verizon (which tested an average of 370kbps!), and the use of external antennas.

Would you sacrifice a few meals each month for wireless networking away from home? By Brian Jepson

Here's a rundown of all the data services I've tested and who offers them:

Sprint (www.pcsvision.com)
Verizon Wireless (www.verizonwireless.com)
Cingular Wireless (www.cingular.com)
T-Mobile (www.-mobile.com)

GPRS: General Packet Radio Services
(Cingular Wirelss, T-Mobile, Cingular). Up to 13.2Kbps.
EDGE: Enchanced Data rates for GSM Evolution
(Cingular Wireless)
1XRTT: Single Carrier Radio Transmission Technology
(Sprint, Verizon Wireless). Up to 144Kbps.
1xEV-DO: Single Carrier Evolution Data Only
(Verizon Wireless). 122-470kbps.

1 year contract: Verizon Wireless, 1xEV-DO, 122kbps - 470kbps
Verizon Audiovox PC5220 PC card
Activation Fee
Patch Glass Mount Antenna with Suction Cups
(part CA09-1G, www.cellantenna.com)
Antenna Adapter Cable
(SKU 421575, www.yourwirelesssource.com)
Unlimited NationalAccess/BroadbandAccess

IDSL: ISDN Digital Subscriber Line, a way of providing DSL over existing ISDN lines. ISDN has two channels and may have both voice and data in the circuit, has call setup delays and is usually billed with a per minute fee. Providing DSL on ISDN gives you transfer speeds of 144kbps, about the same as ISDN, but it only carries data. The connection is always-on and has a flat billing rate. If you live beyond DSL, IDSL may be a good option to consider compared to analog modems though it probably will be priced higher than DSL. Another consideration is VPN (Virtual Private Network). If you need VPN to securely connect to a company network, Satellite (at this time) will not support VPN while IDSL will. So, if you need VPN, you can't get DSL, and don't have a "neighborhood network", IDSL may be your best choice even over Satellite.

Wi-Fi: Usually a great solution for wireless HotSpot networks in businesses, or homes. People have accomplished line-of-sight Wi-Fi over distances of 20 miles with proper equipment, and created Wi-Fi networks in neighborhoods in dense forests that operate well in all but the hardest of rain storms. Hotspots coverage usually depends on effective antenna orientation and signal strength.

WiMAX: it's coming, but has not arrived in Nevada County yet. Keep in mind, it is probably not a direct hotspot replacement. WiMAX is more intended as a tower-to-rooftop solution - getting broadband to "the last mile", then the customer uses a wired, or wireless, LAN to distirbute the bandwidth. Eventually there may be WiMAX capable cards for your laptop, but not currently.

  Speed Tests   Have Internet access and wonder what bandwidth you are obtaining in a real-world environment?


  Local Hotspots

  For those of you visiting the area, or those of us who live here and want wireless access when going into Nevada City and Grass Valley there are a variety of hotspot locations where you can use wireless internet access.

Unfortunately, we are no longer able to provide a complete listing of such locations.

Nevada County's public libraries offer Internet access, and many coffee shops and restaurants (such as Flour Garden Bakery) offer complimentary service to their customers.

  Other Hotspots   You may find these useful to find wireless hotspots, both locally and as you travel:


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