It's a story that seemed so improbable at first blush that it was difficult to believe. About a week ago in this space, I reported that I'd received several unconfirmed reports that AT&T has deployed broadband Internet access in Grizzly Flat.
Your blogger has now confirmed that broadband Internet service is indeed available on a limited basis in this remote El Dorado County community that lies deep on the far side of the digital divide that forms a three mile radius around central Placerville.
About two months ago, a notice was posted on the community's post office bulletin board advising that DSL service was available and residents began signing up. (Resident Ryan Snyder reports service extends only as far as the post office. Snyder, who lives beyond the post office, said he was told when the service was introduced to expect to DSL in a few weeks but says it's still unavailable.)
Bob Anderson, a 22-year resident of Grizzly Flat and owner of Short Circuit Computer Repair in Placerville as well as another Grizzly Flat resident confirmed the story.
Equally improbable is how it happened. Anderson tells me his understanding is AT&T ran fiber optic cable (yes, fiber) to bridge the 25 miles between its central office in Placerville and Grizzly Flat, where the fiber optic cable was then connected to a remote distribution terminal that feeds DSL service to local subscribers. Anderson says he's getting solid connections at 2.5mbs.
But why Grizzly Flat of the many El Dorado County communities with the misfortune to lie within the county's many massive broadband black holes? Anderson theorizes it was to bring distant medicine to the community's many elderly residents who are far from their doctors. With a high speed Internet connection, doctors and their patients can visit in real time video conferences and physicans can remotely obtain various diagnostic data.
AT&T's not commenting on the Grizzly Flat deployment to confirm Anderson's account. But he's a computer guy and thus brings some degree of technical credibility to bear.
Is this only a demonstration project? Or will Ma Bell lay in more fiber to bring the other numerous digitally dark communities of the El Dorado County into the light of the 21st century?