Digital 395 groundbreaking on schedule for July

The final hurdles for the Digital 395 project have been nearly cleared, with one last appeal deadline and some last minute negotiations with Native American tribes still remaining, according to Michael Ort, the CEO for the private developer for the 563-mile long digital cable project that wills stretch from Mojave to Carson City.

“Groundbreaking on the Digital 395 project in Mono County is on schedule for the end of July, if I have to bring a pickaxe and start digging myself,” he said.

The deadline to complete the project is exactly one year away from the end of the month—and $101 million in state and federal money is at stake, as well as hundreds and thousands of Eastern Sierra businesses and residents that have struggled with bad broadband service for much of the past two years. If the project is not completed by then, the money could dry up.

When asked if the project will get done by the July 2013 deadline, Ort said yes.

He noted that criticism of the “slow pace” of the project is misplaced. “Under any other circumstances, a project like this, of this magnitude, would take four to five years to do,” he said. “We are doing it in half that time.”

About 47 different agencies and entities, from national forest to county governments to state and federal fish and wildlife agencies to Native American tribes have had to be consulted, before the trenches are dug and the cable is laid, he said.

The project is funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and is considered to be one of the state of California’s highest broadband priorities.