Grant: Building a Wireless Backbone in the High Sierras

Date: November 2021
Amount: $147,144

For the past several years massive wildfires have devastated residential, commercial, agriculture, and natural park lands of the rural counties within Northern Eastern California, otherwise known as the “High Sierras”. Fires within mid 2021 have already encompassed 200k+ acres by early summer. The local economy is heavily dependent on tourist oriented events, such as mountain biking races, small music festivals, and cottage rentals. High speed digital communications is a challenge in this region due to sparse cellular coverage from the three major carriers, a single WISP with bandwidth caps and limited coverage, and expansion of fiber service is constrained by state funding. Amateur repeaters are popular resources within the area, due to high coverage and battery backed power commercial operators struggle within the region for coverage and power availability.

The Sierra-Lassen-Plumas Interoperability Network (“SLPnet”) is an effort to build a wireless common backbone for multiple emergency services, public life safety, public education, and amateur radio users. The project will be implemented and supported by amateur operators. This hybrid unlicensed/licensed microwave network between underdeveloped mountain top locations, such as fire lookout will have a particular focus on locations which do not already have active communications facilities in order to avoid the creation of additional single points of failure.

San Francisco Wireless Emergency Mesh is the fiscal sponsor of this project.