By Doresa Banning
While businesses in Nevada’s metropolises are demanding smart capabilities from their wireless communications devices, their counterparts in the state’s rural parts simply want and need broadband, or high-speed, Internet.
A lot of cities in the Silver State don’t have it, explained Tom Husted, the CEO of the non-profit electric utility Valley Electric Association Inc. (VEA). VEA provides electricity to more than 45,000 people within a 6,800-square-mile service area between Fish Lake Valley and Sandy Valley, primarily along the border with California. “We aim to help facilitate high-speed communications wherever we can within the state of Nevada,” he said.
VEA has been doing just that. Its wholly owned subsidiary, Valley Communications Association (VCA), has installed the infrastructure for wireless Internet in VEA’s entire service area except for Sandy Valley, Mountain Springs and Trout Canyon as of mid-February. Regulatory approval has been obtained to begin work on Sandy Valley but remains pending for the other two spots. Buildout in all, however, is expected to be completed by year-end at the latest. As for the fiberoptic infrastructure, VCA currently is installing it in Beatty and Pahrump, the first two cities in VEA’s service area to get it. Beatty will be the first such community to be fully fiberoptic equipped.
VCA also is installing either wireless or fiberoptic, depending on need, in cities outside of VEA’s service area, such as Tonopah and Goldfield.
“As the wireless gets replaced with fiberoptic, the former equipment will then be taken and redeployed in communities outside of VEA’s service area,” Husted said.
The high-speed Internet VCA is making available is 10 times faster than what these communities had before, Husted said. The wireless speed is 25 megabits per second up and down. With fiberoptic, the maximum service available today for businesses is 10 gigabits per second, but the capability is limitless. As commercial consumers need increased capacity with their fiberoptic, it can be accommodated with the infrastructure that VCA has been installing.
“The service is absolutely phenomenal,” Husted said. “The system is designed so that as more consumers come on, it doesn’t have degradation in quality.”
Broadband Internet is “a game changer” for businesses in rural Nevada, Husted said. “High-speed communications is critical infrastructure in this day and age. Demand for that is only going to increase in the future.”
That technology allowed Raj Singh and Sam Dhillon, owners of the Best Western Pahrump Oasis, to meet customer demand for fast, reliable Internet. It enabled Pahrump attorney Jonathan K. Nelson to open an office in Las Vegas. It lets Tyrus Tom, the owner/operator of six Horizon Market gas station and convenience stores in Nye County, to better manage his locations as he can remotely stream video from them in real time. It provides Andrea Little, owner of Liberty Tax in Pahrump, the ability to download tax program updates and upload clients’ tax returns rapidly, much faster than the 30 to 45 minutes it took for one file in the past.
And it kept open the Beatty Medical Clinic, the only one in town. Staffing the family practice full-time became unviable, economically. However, now with broadband, the operator Dr. Michael Reiner said he can have a virtual provider there 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and have another one physically present on a limited, as-needed basis.