INFRASTRUCTURE - Surfnet recently won a State grant to build-out broadband technology in rural areas. (Courtesy of Surfnet)

One of the first dial-up internet providers has announced it’s now bringing fiber optic internet to remote areas of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

In the wake of a $10 million infusion from the State of California, Surfnet Communications is rolling out its plan to expand broadband across Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Luis Obispo.

“We have already started on the engineering portion,” said Ken Nye, the company’s COO. “We’re starting on the construction.”

On June 20, Surfnet was awarded $10,083,005 by the California Public Utilities Commission.

The company says its new initiative will deliver an increase in download capacity of up to 1,000%, and an increase in upload speed of as much as 3,330%.

Nye said company officials have been reflecting on how it once hosted Los Gatan sister newspaper the Press Banner, when the web was really just coming into being.

Back then, online access wasn’t the essential service it is today.

“Internet was like tv—everybody wanted it,” Nye said. “Now, it’s necessary. It’s a must have…We are now a utility.”

Surfnet had about three miles of fiber optic cable in the ground, thanks to a 2014 grant that allowed it to expand in Prunedale.

It’s now aiming to install upwards of 30-60 miles of fiber.

“In order to do this, we have to work with PG&E and incumbent providers,” he said, explaining that involves mapping out telephone poles. “We are designing that right now.”

According to Nye, a small business has the agility to act quickly during extreme weather events.

“I personally actually dragged a propane tank a quarter-mile through the snow,” he said, recalling how they responded to last year’s surprise snowstorm. “We’re here and local. We’re invested.”          

The grant funding comes from the CPUC’s California Advanced Services Fund.

He admits they’re facing competition from Elon Musk’s Starlink, which recently put up a billboard along Highway 1 south of Watsonville.

But he says Surfnet offers a totally different type of service.

“We’re boots on the ground,” he said, adding, “Fiber is five times faster than Starlink.”

Now, Surfnet is reaching out to residents of the Santa Cruz Mountains, seeking feedback about how to best tailor its offerings.

“That’s what this grant is for, to bring fiber to the mountain areas,” he said. “We need to hear from them so we can make our plans for where we want to bring fiber next.”

Previous articleNC Boardshop keeps local in focus
Next articleTown alters Independence Day party start time due to heat
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here