Fully funded, Nicasio internet project set to go


Nicasio is getting wired in. Residents successfully raised the funds required to match a state grant, and fiber-optic internet services are expected to be available to about 220 residences and businesses by the end of the year. The announcement is a victory for the Nicasio Landowners Association, which partnered with the Vallejo company Inyo Networks to secure a grant from the California Public Utilities Commission. Last summer, the commission granted the two groups nearly $1.5 million from a fund for rural communities seeking to improve their broadband. But they had one year to raise an additional $994,000 to completely finance the project, which has a net cost of $2,485,130. Eric Blantz, co-chair of the Nicasio Landowners Broadband Subcommittee, said the process had “been a whirlwind. We needed to raise a million dollars, but weren’t sure how.” He said his partner in the effort, Patrick McDonnell, had the idea of devising a prepayment option in which Inyo Network would offer five, 10 and 20-year monthly internet service prepayment plans with tiered monthly discounts. (Without the prepayment plan, a full gigabit connection is expected to cost about $89 per month.) The plan proved a success: nearly two-thirds of all property owners within the project’s core area signed up for the program. Loren Carpenter was the first person to sign up for the prepayment option, singing up for 20 years of internet services for $16,000 up front. “It was a clever plan and the price ended up being just right to raise the funds,” he said. “This was the first time anybody has tried to do this and it could be pattern for our neighbors in the west to extend the system.” The high-powered internet will be sourced from the nearby Lucasfilm facility, which runs a cable in a loop from San Rafael to Skywalker Ranch. With Nicasio hooked in, more of West Marin has the potential to extend the network. Mr. Blantz said that construction could begin as early as August, and the system could be up and running by December.