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Grit, The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success – Skyler Ditchfield

Grit, The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success: “Lead by example” With Skyler Ditchfield CEO of GeoLinks and Phil Laboon

It’s imperative to never forget that you’re only as great as the team you’re surrounded by. Thus, lead by example. Meet with your team as much as you can and tailor how you communicate to each person individually. Become a leader they can believe in, and always make them feel valued.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Skyler Ditchfield. Skyler Ditchfield, Co-Founder and CEO of GeoLinks, the Fastest Growing Internet and Phone Provider in America. Within his company, Ditchfield is passionate about cultivating the best company culture around — one that combines respect, collaboration and a “best idea wins mantra.” His dedication and work ethic have earned him various accolades in including “Top Innovator in Diversity and Inclusion”, “World’s Top 5 Best Businessmen of 2017”, and 2018 “Entrepreneur of the Year”.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

My“entrepreneurial roots” began at the age of six selling food, video games, lemonade, and basically anything else I thought people might buy, door-to-door and on the side of the road. One of my favorite stories to look back on was when I was about 7 or 8 and my elementary school decided to band candy. While other kids at school complained, I looked at this as an opportunity. I proceeded to buy candy off premise and sell it to my fellow students at a 1000% markup — I ended up bringing in about $30 a day, which in the early 90s was a lot! The school did eventually catch me, and I had to stop.

I first really dove into the world of technology at the age of 13 when I set up a bulletin board system (BBS) with my cousin, and no co-founder and CTO Ryan Hauf, to service 200 members of our local community with dial-up Internet. Throughout my childhood, I became increasingly fascinated with long-distance communications and computer networking. Directly after high school, I accepted a Network Engineer II job at the Private Network Management Center (PNMC) of MCI Worldcom in Silicon Valley servicing high-level clients such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Quotron, Reuters, and more. Although I was the youngest technician at the maximum-security PNMC, I was quickly promoted to Network Engineer III after exceeding the entire staff in router reprogramming. When the company relocated to the East Coast, I was one of two employees offered a transfer. Ultimately, I declined the offer and returned to Ojai where I proceeded to build a network business from scratch with $550 in startup capital.

While there were bumps along the road, my path was a natural progression to eventually starting my own ISP.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Hard times have occurred all along the way, both personally and professionally. From a professional standpoint, when you first start a company, money is one of your biggest problems. You have to be able to have enough money to get your company off the ground while simultaneously supporting your family. As you get bigger, so do your challenges. Every time you hit new benchmarks, you have to reinvent yourself. This can be painful at times, such as outgrowing certain team members, completely overhauling a system or process, changing your direction etc. Some people have a hard time keeping up with that.

Luckily life experiences have enabled me to adapt quickly to change. From surviving multiple business failures that left me facing massive debt and ruined credit, to battling severe life-long health issues, each chapter in my life has taught me how to fight back harder and ultimately have the confidence to overcome anything. Being an entrepreneur undoubtedly requires grit — but if you can learn to own that, you will become successful.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I have always believed in myself and listened to my intuition. For example, we reached a point about two years after starting our company, where we were literally just weeks away from being completely out of money. In my gut, however, I knew that there had to be a game-changing deal coming through any day; mind you, until you have a signed document in your hand, nothing’s real. Thus, I decided to follow my intuition and push the business ahead as usual, so we wouldn’t kill our fast-growing momentum. It turned out my gut was right, and we had a massive business-saving deal come through just days before we would have completely been out of all cash. When I find my back is against the wall, I feel empowered, because I know I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

In addition to everything I’ve mentioned thus far, to be successful you have to be willing to do anything and everything to get your company off the ground. For example, when GeoLinks first started, I did everything from sales, to technical support, to helping built the network, to physically deploying installs. I was never afraid of the number of hours or work it took to accomplish something. Nonetheless, there are certain things you have to sacrifice that can be tough to stomach, such as time away from family. There has to be grit and determination in you to overcome that, or you’re not going to make it. There will always be challenges in businesses. Successful people fail many times over– those failures, however, become part of the growth of your business. You have to have grit to stomach those many storms and weather them.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

Busy! But everything I’m working on is very exciting.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Look at Past Successes — Look back on a time, no matter how small, where you thought things looked bleak and grim, yet you found your way out of it. Then build upon that as you embark on bigger challenges moving forward. For example, if I’m sitting here and looking at a 2 million budget shortfall with only a week to figure it out, I could view it as incredibly daunting. However, if I reflect back to when I was in a similar position but with only $200,000, and I remember how I overcame that challenge, I can use that to give me the confidence I need to solve this new problem.
  2. Do Research — The Internet is an amazing resource; read articles; search for case studies; see how people before you overcame challenges. Knowledge is power.
  3. Get Outside Opinions – This is something I consistently do, even if I don’t ultimately agree, other’s opinions can give you new perspective. I like to gather as much knowledge and feedback as I possibly can to ultimately shape and form my own stance — then, I make a decision, and own it.
  4. Get Physical — Not with others, but with yourself. When I push myself physically in the gym, for example, I mean truly wear myself down, I am forced to clear my mind and find a way to push through. This is a great reminder of the power of the mind, and that with enough concentration and grit, I am capable of pushing through anything.
  5. Own Your Mindset — Take a position that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Own that mindset, and you will find a path out or way to success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

Our first investor that came in, Tom Krause, built a very successful company from scratch. While I believe I could have gotten here on my own eventually, his expertise and guidance have greatly accelerated my success. His innate ability to mentor objectively allowed me to bypass most entrepreneur’s steep learning curves. I am incredibly grateful for that.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Absolutely! GeoLinks has officially partnered with CENIC, AlertWildfire, WIFIRE, and others to deploy wildfire detection, prevention and situational awareness systems across California. Statewide expansion of this proven system would offer strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations, and evacuation planning. Rapid investment in this shovel-ready system would soon save lives, property, habitat, and infrastructure across California, and the state would see an almost immediate return on its investment. Additional partners that would benefit from this effort and so might be approached for financial support are the insurance industry, technology accelerators, and local community organizations. While we are deploying this system as we speak, we need further investment to take it state wide as quickly as possible.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Everything GeoLinks sets out to do — from closing the digital divide, to helping deploy wildfire detection, prevention ,and situational awareness systems, to offering pro-bono circuits to Red Cross shelters during times of disaster — is aimed at ultimately bringing goodness to the world. Yes, we are a business, so we must earn capital, but the way I see it, the more we grow, the more resources we have to help and give back.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

In today’s modern workplace, culture is paramount in attracting and retaining top talent, thus it’s imperative to never forget that you’re only as great as the team you’re surrounded by. Thus, lead by example. Meet with your team as much as you can and tailor how you communicate to each person individually. Become a leader they can believe in, and always make them feel valued.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I founded GeoLinks with the mission to close the U.S. Digital Divide. I am determined to bring connectivity to every unconnected Anchor Institution in America over the next 7 years. To accomplish this goal, I am aggressively looking to change the landscape of Internet across America by influencing the reform of broadband funding and spectrum policy on both a state and federal level.

Outside of work, I would say help people better understand one another. I find that whenever it comes to politically charged debates, from republicans vs democrats, to gun control, to immigration, many times if you get the rhetoric and anger out of the way, people want the same thing, just want to go about it in different ways. Today’s media and climate has created such a charged environment, that we either shy away from topics or come across in an aggressive manner. Both of these are unproductive, and create a continuing divide among people. We need to come together, open our minds, and get a better understanding of one another.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s lifeLife is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

On twitter at @SkylerJesseD — or follow GeoLinks @GeoLinks_USA.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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Migrating from on-premise IP-PBX to Hosted IP-PBX

 

Telephony services have come a long way since Alexander Graham Bell’s (and others) initial invention back in the late 19th century. Past revolutionizing the way the world interacts and communicates socially, they have completely transformed the way we do business. In modern day, for example, it is no longer a necessity to have a dedicated resource in-house to manage and maintain the network, ultimately enabling businesses to see immediate benefits when they migrate to a hosted IP-PBX system. But before we get into modern IP-PBX systems, let’s quickly go through its history.

Quick History of the PBX

PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange. However, before the PBX, there was the PABX (private automatic branch exchange). PABX was invented in the 60s and allowed internal traffic within a company to occur without any (human) operator “switching” traffic manually. It seems job automation has been occurring for a long time, way before the invention of artificial intelligence (AI).

Many companies invested heavily in their own internal infrastructure and were not ready to embrace the new PBX system, despite the many features it provided. So, that forced PBX manufacturers to be more innovative by making it easier to integrate with older telephony systems. It goes without saying that the PBX (of the 1980s) revolutionized the call center.

Features of PBX Systems

The auto-attendant feature was one of the first features of the PBX system. Furthermore, the PBX was connected to PCs, which made call handling even simpler. It allowed call centers to speak to customers one to one while other calls were being routed to their required destinations.

Many companies, both small and large, began installing the PBX because it allowed them to increase revenue through increased pre-sales and after-sales activities. PBX manufacturers re-invested these profits into research and development, and by the 1990s, we had digital PBXs performing more functions than ever before – until the arrival of the IP-PBX (Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange).

Features of IP-PBX Systems

As a natural progression from analog to digital, then the Internet age, IP-PBX began to rely heavily on software. That meant that voice calls, emails, and faxes could now be streamlined into one system. The IP-PBX system is extremely efficient, allowing everything to be easily programmable and set up by individual users. Users could ask their calls to “follow them” to certain locations within their company, or even be routed to their mobile devices. Voicemail could be delivered as a transcribed email. And even though installing and maintaining an IP-PBX on-site became cheaper and more streamlined, it wasn’t long until cloud services began to become a dominant force with the option of having a hosted/managed IP-PBX system.

The Cloud and Hosted Services

Today we have many software companies offering their services over the cloud. The cloud just means your software is managed/accessed over the Internet and not from within your organization. Salesforce, for example, was one of the first successful Software as a Service (SaaS) companies. But cloud services, in general, took a long time to catch on. Most companies were against the concept of not having critical software and data stored and accessed on premises.

The concept of shifting costs from Capital Expenditures (CAPEX) to Operational Expenditures (OPEX) became a topic of debate. And while larger companies still debated this move to the cloud, many startups and small businesses embraced the cost savings of managed and hosted services over the Internet.

Now, small and large companies alike can take advantage of managed IP-PBX services. Automated services can ask customers where their calls need to be transferred, and it can all be set up and managed with ease. If an agent is busy, the call can be sent to the next available one. Call back options have also been added whereby customers are called back according to their place in line instead of waiting painfully for the next available agent.

GeoLinks Hosted IP-PBX Services – Hosted Voice

Companies like GeoLinks are offering hosted IP-PBX solutions to businesses large and small, saving them money and streamlining their operations. Most commonly bundled with the GeoLinks ClearFiber™ network, businesses who sign up for GeoLinks’ hosted IP-PBX service, Hosted Voice, can expect:

  • A total cost savings of up to 30% – largely due to eliminating on-premise equipment costs, install, and ongoing maintainance fees.
  • An extension of service use through a desktop phone and mobile app.
  • Unlimited calling across North America (the US, Canada, and Mexico).
  • A fully-managed solution built to grow and increase seamlessly as your business scales.
  • Enterprise-grade features such as an auto attendant, conference calling, follow me, music on hold, voicemail to email, fax to email, and much more.
  • True QoS.
  • 100% uptime with 4G LTE failover.

To support the high-demand, high-bandwidth applications that fuel today’s mission-critical business operations, it’s no longer a luxury to have a high-functioning network and optimal voice solution, it’s a necessity. Want to learn more about how your company can migrate from on-premise IP-PBX to Hosted IP-PBX? Call and talk to a GeoLinks’ team member today!

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Personal Field Account from GeoLinks CTO, Ryan Hauf

Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night

GeoLinks CTO Ryan Hauf

As we delve into winter, field operations as a service provider can be tough, even grueling in some cases. Long hours, the cold, and sporadic weather can often present challenges in maintaining a state-wide network. Nonetheless, GeoLinks takes great pride and goes above and beyond in upholding its service uptime commitment to each and every one of its clients.

The following account is told by GeoLinks Co-Founder and CTO, Ryan Hauf.

After receiving word that a rural school in Redding that we had connected through GeoLinks’ partner CENIC had lost connection, the GeoLinks team, lead by Co-Founder and CTO Ryan Hauf, immediately set off to restore connectivity.

Matt Murphy [GeoLinks’ Lead Infrastructure Technician] and I left immediately Friday afternoon [in my personal work truck]. We arrived in Redding, California about 1:30am. Just before we pulled into the hotel, I found that I couldn’t get the manual transmission into gear. Coasting to the side of the road we noticed there was a LOT of heat radiating from the transmission, and we came to the conclusion that it had leaked out all its oil. After allowing it to cool for a little while it went into gear again, so we removed the shifter and dumped in about a quart of 90w gear oil (we could not install it the conventional way since that requires a pump which we didn’t’ have.) We were able to drive the rest of the way to the hotel.

After coming all the way we weren’t about to give up, so the next morning we decided that since it was still derivable, we’d give the hill ascent a try. We drove gently to the base of the hill and all seemed okay. About 1/4 of the way up the hill, I slowed down for a washout that was about a foot deep, when I pressed the clutch, it fell to the floor… Uh oh, the problems were getting worse! Of course the engine immediately stalled because I wasn’t prepared for the clutch not to disengage. We were now sitting, stuck in gear, with our front wheels in a washout. We figured we could restart the engine in gear if wheels were free, so we used a high-lift jack to lift the front of the truck. I started it, and let the truck “start/drive/roll” off the jack, which Matt pulled out of the way so we didn’t immediately run it over. We were off again, stuck in first gear, with no clutch, no way to shift gears, and potentially no way to re-start the engine if it stalled, depending on the location.

GeoLiks - Ryan Hauf - Redding

We continued to drive this way and the conditions got worse, deeper snow, very deep washouts, including one that was about 2′ deep, which the whole left side of the truck dropped into for about 200 feet. There was mud and snow flying everywhere from the tires; I had the engine redlined so it wouldn’t stall.

Some parts where the snow was deep it took us 10 minutes just to go 50 feet or so. Tires spinning, we’d slowly chew our way through the snow enough to get traction to drive up the incline.

Eventually, about half-a-mile from the top of the hill, we were in snow about a foot deep and the left side of the truck had fallen into a rut. Eventually we ran up against a rock or something hiding under the snow and we were stuck. At this point I called Steven (the repo man) to bring a truck and trailer up because we would be needing a tow home (and possibly off the mountain.) From there, we hiked the rest of the way to the site and repaired it (Matt actually hiked it twice since he went back to the truck for a replacement radio.)

We swapped the antenna and radio at the site, cleared the ice off the solar panels, applied rain-x to them to hopefully help with future icing, and then we headed back down to leave. It was about 3pm by this point. Once we got back to the truck, we jacked up the front to get it out of the hole it was in. We used a heavy duty ratchet-strap to “winch” it forward just enough to relieve tension from the transmission enough to get the shifter out of first and into reverse. Once in reverse, we started it as it fell off the jack again, and backed down the hill to a point we could do a 3-point turn around, which for obvious reasons was very tricky (no clutch). [Nonetheless] we got turned around and headed down the hill.
geolinks_redding

We limped the truck over to the school because it was still not connected, even though the tower was fixed. We assumed it was an alignment issue. Arriving just after dark, before long a few people from town showed up asking what we were doing there at night, on the roof… They were great and very helpful. Also very surprised at the extent we were going to in order to get their Internet repaired. We troubleshot at the school for a couple hours and they offered to take us to a hotel in town so we wouldn’t have to lip the explorer there with no clutch. We were stuck at this point – we  eventually got dropped off at the hotel around 11pm.

Steven (repo man) arrived at the hotel later than expected. 4:30am, to be exact, due to a fuel leak he had to fix on his truck on the way up at a truck stop gas station in the middle of the night with Macgyver parts. We left the hotel around 8am, and went to South Forks to retrieve an un-needed radio to be used as a replacement radio for the one at the school, which we had determined was bad.

Upon arriving at the school it seemed to be one issue after another, but finally, we were out of there by about 3:30pm, with connectivity successfully restored, against all odds and challenges!  We arrived back in town at 4am.

GeoLinks - Headed Home
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Camarillo-based GeoLinks joins universities on wildfire project

Firefighters battle the Woolsey Fire as it burns a home in Malibu in this file photo. (Photo: AP PHOTO)

Original Article: https://www.vcstar.com/story/money/business/2018/12/06/camarillo-based-geolinks-joins-universities-wildfire-project/2212376002/

ALERTWildfire, a consortium of the University of Nevada Reno, UC San Diego and the University of Oregon has officially partnered with Camarillo-based telecom GeoLinks to deploy wildfire detection, prevention and situational awareness systems across California.

Demand for the expansion was inspired by a new wildfire camera pan-tilt-zoom technology developed by Graham Kent, director of the Nevada Seismological Lab at the University of Nevada Reno, that became instrumental in both the response and containment of the 2017 Lilac Fires in San Diego County.

GeoLinks plans to deploy 28 additional such cameras by year’s end.

“ALERTWildfire is excited to work with GeoLinks as their resilient communications network throughout California enables a rapid deployment of fire cameras in critical regions of the state,” said Kent. “No other service provider is able to scale to this urgent task.”

Located on GeoLinks’ vertical assets in Southern California including Ventura County, the cameras will send data over GeoLinks’ network to UC San Diego. There, WIFIRE, an integrated system for wildfire analysis, will analyze the data to create real-time simulations, wildfire path predictions and visualizations of wildfire behavior. The system ultimately will provide strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations and evacuation planning, GeoLinks said in a news release.

“The fact remains that California is now faced with wildfires year-round,” said Skyler Ditchfield, co-founder and CEO of GeoLinks. “Wildfire detection, prevention, and situational awareness systems provide a solution that could make an immediate, lasting, and radical impact on the spread of fires and associated costs, damages and casualties. … If we had assets installed prior to the Camp Fire’s ignition, for example, we could have saved countless lives. This is really the future and next step in advanced firefighting and suppression.”

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How Community Anchor Institutions Can Help Close the Digital Divide

How Community Anchor Institutions Can Help Close the Digital Divide - GeoLinks

Community Anchor Institutions play a pivotal role in closing both the California and U.S. Digital Divide. So, what are both the government and key broadband stakeholders doing to ensure they get connected? Let’s explore.

While the United States has clearly and rapidly advanced technologically over the years, the fact remains that the country still remains in a digital divide. The digital divide, defined as the economic, educational, and social inequalities between those who have computers and online access and those who do not, has left a large portion of U.S. citizens, predominantly in rural America, at an extreme disadvantage.

One of the primary ways this gap can be resolved is to ensure adequate broadband Internet access is deployed to all communities – rural, urban, and suburban. From a business stand point, however, the majority of today’s major carriers find that building out networks to residents and businesses in rural areas with low population densities does not often provide a healthy Return on Investment (ROI). Therefore, if both homes and businesses can’t be immediately serviced, connected anchor institutions become a critical community resource. So, what is a community anchor institution?

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), community anchor institutions are, “schools, libraries, medical and healthcare providers, public safety entities, community colleges, and other institutions of higher education, and other community support organizations and agencies that provide outreach, access, equipment, and support services to facilitate greater use of broadband service by vulnerable populations, including low-income, the unemployed, and the aged.”

Fortunately, over the past few decades a variety of federal and state programs have formed aiming to provide the funding needed to connect community anchor institutions across the country.

E-Rate Program – 1996 Telecommunications Act

As part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Congress authorized the E-Rate program. This program specifically aims to connect public and non-profit K-12 schools, in addition to public and private libraries, to advanced telecommunication networks. Funding for the program is provided by the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC), which collects fees on national telecommunications services. USAC provides schools and libraries with up to 90% of funding for advanced telecommunications services.

E-Rate Program – 1996 Telecommunications Act - Geolinks

While the E-Rate program has undoubtedly made strides towards closing the digital divide nationally, we still have a long way to go. The Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) has identified that 39% of rural Americans and 41% of tribal lands still lack basic broadband Internet services. SHLB has also identified that:

  • 42% of schools do not meet the minimum requirement set by the FCC for broadband services.
  • 41% of libraries have a broadband connection of 10Mbps or less, which is lower than the FCC’s recommended 100Mbps for libraries.
  • 88% of rural area healthcare providers have a broadband connection of less than 50Mbps.

The majority of these statistics stem from unconnected anchor institutions located in rural America. In addition to the efforts taking place federally, programs have also been developed at a state level. California, for example, has programs in place to aid in connecting community anchor institutions.

California Teleconnect Fund

The California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) was created by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in 1996 to reaffirm its commitment to universal broadband services with a focus on community anchor institutions. The program provides discounts on voice (25%) and broadband services (50%) for eligible organizations. These organizations include public schools, private schools, libraries, community based organizations, hospital and health clinics, California Community Colleges, and California Telehealth Network.

California Emerging Technology Fund

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) was created in 2005 to help “provide leadership statewide to close the digital divide by accelerating the deployment and adoption of broadband to unserved and underserved communities and populations.”

Established as a non-profit corporation pursuant to orders from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), CETF has access to a total of $60 million in funding to support deploying broadband access across California, particularly in underserved communities. The CPUC also directed that at least $5 million of these funds should be used for telemedicine projects.

Effective Use of Capital

With the presence of funds being allocated towards connecting community anchor institutions across the state of California, it is critical to evaluate how the capital can be used in the most effective and efficient manner. California has a diverse range of topologies with a variety of unique and differing challenges. Therefore, in order to successfully connect anchor institutions state-wide, it’s imperative to deploy hybrid networks.

A hybrid network utilizes a variety of technologies such as fiber, fixed wireless, and fixed 5G. While there are pros and cons to each delivery method, when used together, they have the ability to create a complete solution that can deliver multi-gigabit bandwidth to anchors in both urban, suburban andultra-rural communities.

GeoLinks – Bridging the Digital Divide

GeoLinks was founded in 2011 with the mission of helping close the U.S. digital divide. In the past few years, the Company has further focused its efforts on connecting underserved and unserved anchors to the Internet. Working closely with regional broadband consortiums, organizations like CETF, and non-profits such as CENIC, GeoLinks has connected dozens of California K-12 schools and libraries.

Currently, the telecom is completing network construction that promises to scale a rural hospital in Kern River Valley’s bandwidth from 12Mgps to 1Gbps and fully convert its 170 POTs lines into Hosted VoIP lines. The redundant one gigabit speeds plan to benefit the entire community as GeoLinks will offer its services to other local businesses in partnership with the larger Kern River Valley Broadband Project. This case study showcases just how important community anchor institutions become in closing the divide.

Ultimately, deploying broadband networks to anchor institutions is a cost-efficient and vitally important investment in our nation’s future. Several studies show that building high-capacity broadband to community anchor institutions has a multiplier effect that generates tremendous economic growth for the community and the nation. That being said, while connecting our anchors is imperative, this alone won’t close the digital divide.

To learn more, read our recent article published in Forbes about the “Five Crucial Steps Needed To Close The U.S. Digital Divide”.

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SHLB Coalition Announces 5 New Board Members

Original Source SHLB.org

Washington, D.C. (December 5, 2018) – Today the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition announced five additions to its board of directors for 2019:

  • Cindy Aden, state librarian, State of Washington;
  • Erik Heinrich, senior manager SLED business development, Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS Company;
  • Tim Koxlien, CEO, Telequality Communications;
  • Ray Timothy, CEO and executive director, Utah Education & Telehealth Network; and
  • Melissa Slawson, general counsel and VP of government affairs and education, GeoLinks.

“These individuals and their organizations are dedicated to achieving digital equity through connecting community anchor institutions (CAIs),” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition, “Their passion and diverse areas of expertise will make SHLB’s advocacy for CAI broadband connectivity even stronger.”

The current SHLB board of directors appointed Aden, Heinrich, Koxlien, and Timothy, while SHLB’s membership elected Slawson to serve. The incoming members, who begin their three-year terms on the board on January 1, 2019, made the following statements:

“As the State Librarian for Washington State, I am eager to get more involved in the nuts and bolts of broadband and e-rate issues, as my state readies itself for significant broadband legislation that will include the State Library as one of the stakeholders. I am honored to follow the work of my esteemed colleague, the Montana State Librarian Jennie Stapp, and I look forward to working with the SHLB board.” – Cindy Aden, State Librarian, Washington State.

“As a research and education network, we have found SHLB to be a great resource for our organization as we strive to network for education and telehealth in Utah. I am excited to be on the board so that we can share our experiences and strengths with others throughout the country.” – Ray Timothy, Utah Education & Telehealth Network

“SHLB is the only voice representing the common broadband interests of community anchor institutions, local and state government entities and service providers. Under John Windhausen’s leadership, our members receive the benefit of a well respected, hard working and dedicated organization. I am grateful to be a part of the work that SHLB does in helping to solve broadband problems throughout the US.” – Tim Koxlien, Telequality Communications.

“I am honored to join SHLB in raising awareness around the challenges of Digital Equity and advocating for solutions to the disparity in online access among our Nation’s diverse populations of students, teachers and their communities. SHLB’s mission is closely aligned with this very issue and I look forward to fulfilling a role as a member of the SHLB board of directors while working closely with the SHLB member community to help close the digital divide.” – Erik Heinrich, Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS Company.

“I am excited and honored to have been chosen as the newest member of the SHLB Board of Directors. Universal broadband access has always been a personal passion of mine and I look forward to representing GeoLinks as I work with SHLB and my fellow Board members to bring more awareness to the issue and create policies that help bridge the digital divide.” – Melissa Slawson, GeoLinks.

###

About SHLB:

The SHLB Coalition is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) advocacy organization that supports open, affordable, high-quality broadband connections for anchor institutions and their surrounding communities. The SHLB Coalition is based in Washington, DC and has a diverse membership of commercial and non-commercial organizations from across the United States. To learn more, visit www.shlb.org.

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Alicja Johnson
[email protected]
(202) 261-6599

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Comments to Consider Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund

BEFORE THE
CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION

Order Instituting Rulemaking to Consider
Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund.
Rulemaking No. 12-10-012 (Filed October 25, 2012)

 

OPENING COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. (U-7326-C) DBA

GEOLINKS ON PROPOSED DECISION OF COMMISSIONER GUZMAN ACEVES

IMPLEMENTING THE CALIFORNIA ADVANCED SERVICES FUND

INFRASTRUCTURE ACCOUNT REVISED RULES

November 29, 2018 

Pursuant to Rule 14.3 of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, California Internet, L.P. (U-7326-C) dba GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) respectfully submits these comments on the on the Proposed Decision of Commissioner Guzman Aceves, entitled “Decision Implementing the California Advanced Services Fund Infrastructure Account Revised Rules” (“Phase II PD”), released on November 9, 2018.

GeoLinks limits these comments to one section of the Phase II PD regarding the Ministerial Review process (Section 2.3). In the Phase II PD, while the Commission acknowledges GeoLinks’ concerns regarding the lack of technology neutrality present in the proposed ministerial review process with respect to the maximum price per household for fiber projects vs. fixed wireless projects, the Commission fails to actually make the process technology neutral. Specifically, while the Phase II PD does lower the maximum amount per household eligible for ministerial review for fiber projects (from $8,000 to $6,000 per household), the number is still inextricably several thousand dollars more than the threshold for fixed wireless projects ($1,500 per household).

The Phase II PD fails to provide any rationale for the thresholds proposed or even attempt to explain why the proposed fiber threshold is $4,500 per household higher than the proposed fixed wireless threshold. GeoLinks assumes these numbers are based on averages taken from previously-approved CASF projects, but this is not clear. For example, while the CASF Annual Report for 2016 explains that the average of 15 CASF fiber projects is $9,442, inclusive of middle mile costs, the Phase II PD does not address this average in any way, explain how the new $6000 may or may not be related to it. The Phase II PD is completely silent as to how the proposed thresholds were conceived, what they may or may not be based on, or why they can’t be the same for both technology types.

Moreover, while the Phase II PD does note that the ministerial thresholds do not preclude fixed wireless projects from being awarded grants that fall outside the ministerial cost criteria, it makes very clear that these projects (even if still significantly less per household than proposed fiber projects that may offer the same speed to the same areas) must go through the Commission’s Resolution process (which is presumably longer and requires a Commission decision). GeoLinks asserts that 1) creating separate thresholds for separate technologies that offer the same service, 2) requiring one technology to endure a procedural process that another would not for what might otherwise be an identical proposed project, 3) and failing to provide any explanation for why the cost threshold or the path to approval is different for one technology over another are examples of bad public policy. In all, the Commission’s retention of differing thresholds for fiber projects vs. fixed wireless projects in direct opposition to the Commission’s goal of administering the CASF program on a “technology neutral” basis and should be rejected.

GeoLinks urges the Commission to create one ministerial threshold for all technology type. Specifically, GeoLinks suggests $4000 to create some balance between the currently inequity of $6000 (fiber) vs. $1500 (fixed wireless).

Respectfully submitted,

/s/ Melissa Slawson
Melissa Slawson
General Counsel, V.P. of Government Affairs and Education
California Internet, L.P. dba GeoLinks
251 Camarillo Ranch Rd
Camarillo, CA 93012

November 29, 2018

[1] California Advanced Services Fund: A Program to Bridge the Digital Divide in California, Annual Report January 2016 – December 2016 (issued April 2017) at page 43, FN 51.
[1] Interim Opinion Implementing California Advanced Services Fund, Decision 07-12-054 (rel. December 20, 2007), at 8: “The CASF shall be administered on a technology neutral basis by the Commission.”  See also Id. At 28: “CASF funding proposals will be reviewed based upon how well they meet the criteria for selection as set forth below, and, where applicable, compared with any competing claims to match the deployment offer under superior terms. Such criteria should be evaluated on a competitively neutral basis.” (Emphasis added).
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ALERTWildfire Partners With GeoLinks to Deploy Fire Detection and Prevention Systems Across California

ALERTWildfire Partners With GeoLinks to Deploy Fire Detection and Prevention Systems Across California

CAMARILLO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–ALERTWildfire, a consortium of three universities — The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the University of Oregon (UO) — announced today it has officially partnered with California-based Telecom, GeoLinks, to deploy Wildfire Detection, Prevention, and Situational Awareness Systems across the state of California. With ample endorsement from the United States Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), California’s new Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, and a multitude of utilities and state counties, the project demonstrates the future and next step in advanced firefighting and suppression.

Demand for the rapid system expansion was inspired by a new wildfire camera pan-tilt-zoom technology (PTZ), developed by Graham Kent, Director of the Nevada Seismological Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno, that became instrumental in both the response and containment of the 2017 Lilac Fires in San Diego County. GeoLinks plans to deploy 28 additional PTZs by year’s end.

“ALERTWildfire is excited to work with GeoLinks as their resilient communications network throughout California enables a rapid deployment of fire cameras in critical regions of the state,” said Kent. “No other service provider is able to scale to this urgent task, and we look forward to dozens of cameras to be installed month-after-month as we ready ourselves for December 2018 and fire season 2019.”

Collocated across GeoLinks’ vertical assets in greater LA-Metro, Orange County, Riverside County, and Ventura County, the data collected from the PTZ cameras will be backhauled over GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network to WIFIRE at the San Diego Supercomputer Center in UC San Diego. WIFIRE, an integrated system for wildfire analysis, analyzes data collected from these cameras to create real-time simulations, wildfire path predictions, and visualizations of wildfire behavior. Ultimately, the system will provide strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations, and evacuation planning.

UC San Diego has already identified the next wave of key sites for GeoLinks to connect post initial project completion. Skyler Ditchfield, co-founder and CEO of GeoLinks, notes that with the comprehensive coverage of fixed wireless broadband that will accompany the camera network, LTE-based data connectivity and the extension of all first responder handheld radio systems can be efficiently added to close all connectivity gaps.

“The fact remains that California is now faced with wildfires year-round,” stated Ditchfield. “Wildfire detection, prevention, and situational awareness systems provide a solution that could make an immediate, lasting, and radical impact on the spread of fires and associated costs, damages, and casualties. GeoLinks, ALERTWildfire, and a variety of other affiliates across the state, including CENIC, are actively pushing the state-wide expansion of these technologies. If we had assets installed prior to the Camp Fire’s ignition, for example, we could have saved countless lives. This is really the future and next step in advanced firefighting and suppression.”

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact Lexie Smith at [email protected].

About ALERTWildfire

ALERTWildfire is a consortium of three universities — The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the University of Oregon (UO) — providing access to state-of-the-art Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) fire cameras and associated tools to help firefighters and first responders: (1) discover/locate/confirm fire ignition, (2) quickly scale fire resources up or down appropriately, (3) monitor fire behavior through containment, (4) during firestorms, help evacuations through enhanced situational awareness, and (5) ensure contained fires are monitored appropriately through their demise.

About GeoLinks

Headquartered in Southern California, GeoLinks is a leading telecommunications company and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Digital Voice solutions. Ranked first in category on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America in both 2017 and 2018, GeoLinks delivers Enterprise-Grade Internet, Digital Voice, SD-WAN, Cloud On-ramping, Layer 2 Transport, and both Public and Private Turnkey Network Construction expertly tailored for businesses and Anchor Institutions nationwide.

GeoLinks’ accelerated success is largely due to its flagship product, ClearFiber™, which offers dedicated business-class Internet with unlimited bandwidth, true network redundancy, and guaranteed speeds reaching up to 10 Gbps. Named “Most Disruptive Technology” in the 2018 Central Coast Innovation Awards, GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network is backed by a carrier-grade Service Level Agreement boasting 99.999% uptime and 24/7 in-house customer support. With an average installation period of 4 to 7 days, GeoLinks is proud to offer the most resilient and scalable fixed wireless network on the market.

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Expanding Flexible Use of the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz Band

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

Expanding Flexible Use of the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz Band - GeoLinks

COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these reply comments in response to comments filed on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) released in the aforementioned docket.[1]

  1. INTRODUCTION

GeoLinks is the fastest growing Internet and phone provider in America and the fastest growing telecom in California.  In addition, GeoLinks was recently awarded Connect America Fund Phase II Auction funding to serve 3883 Census Blocks in California and Nevada.  The Company has a vested interest in ensuring that the FCC’s policies allow competitive broadband providers to access vital spectrum resources and believes that the 3.7-4.2 GHz band provides opportunity for such access, subject to certain rules and requirements.

  1. DISCUSSION

  2. GeoLinks Supports the BAC’s Proposed Solution to Allow Spectrum Access for Fixed Wireless Providers in the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band

Millions of Americans lack what is considered, by today’s standards, highspeed broadband access – especially in rural areas.  As GeoLinks has previously advocated, sparsely populated rural areas are not well suited for traditional, wired broadband service given the cost to build and deliver a cable/ fiber-based network, often resulting in these areas being left on the wrong side of the digital divide.  However, fixed wireless broadband technology can provide highspeed broadband to consumers in these areas for a fraction of the cost of traditional, wired networks. In addition, fixed wireless providers can (and do in some areas) offer competitive choice to consumers in urban and suburban areas.

Like other fixed wireless providers, GeoLinks’ technology platform depends on access to spectrum resources sufficient to support enterprise-level broadband connections. While spectrum resources do exist that have allowed fixed wireless providers to successfully deploy internet services in some areas, these resources have primarily been available on an unlicensed basis only.  Unlicensed bands are not a one-size-fits-all option as they are often subject to congestion and interference that can degrade wireless signals.

In order for fixed wireless broadband providers to truly compete with traditional, wired service providers, additional spectrum resources are needed. GeoLinks believes the 3.7-4.2 GHz band offers an opportunity for the Commission to allocate spectrum resources in a way that will promote competition and help bridge the digital divide while protecting current users of the band.

The BAC has set forth a “win-win-win solution that: (1) protects incumbent FCC operators from harmful interference; (2) clears a portion of the band for exclusive flexible use licensing; and (3) enables fixed P2MP broadband providers to deploy badly needed high-throughput broadband to unserved and underserved customers.”[2]  GeoLinks believes that this proposed solution strikes the right balance with respect to spectrum sharing, frequency coordination, buildout requirements, and Point-to-Multipoint (“P2MP”) deployment.  As such, GeoLinks supports the opening comments submitted by the BAC in response to the NPRM.

  1. The Commission Should Reject Any Arguments that Fixed Wireless Providers Already Have Access to All the Spectrum Resources They Need

GeoLinks urges the Commission to reject any argument that the spectrum resources that fixed wireless providers have now are “good enough.”  This status-quo mentality is exemplified in comments that appear to suggest that fixed wireless providers have all the spectrum they need or will get it eventually, so there is no need to look to the 3.7-4.2 GHz band for more.  Specifically, the C-Band Alliance explains that “any legitimate requirement for more spectrum for P2MP networks can be met using bands that are either currently available or are being considered for such operations.”[3]

GeoLinks strongly disagrees that fixed wireless providers have enough spectrum already.  As explained above, currently fixed wireless providers primarily have access to only unlicensed spectrum.  In situations where only unlicensed spectrum is available, most connections are limited to point-to-point (“P2P”) connections over short distances to avoid interference with other users.  While fixed wireless providers have had success with these P2P connections, considering them “good enough” fails to account for all of the benefits that the technology couldprovide.  First, even with extensive engineering and coordination, there is no guarantee that interference won’t occur at some point over unlicensed spectrum bands.  This is especially true in densely populated, urban areas where there are numerous users in the unlicensed band.  This interference can make it difficult and costly to engineer a dedicated link to a customer to ensure enterprise-grade broadband service – a service that a fixed wireless provider mustoffer to be competitive in urban markets.  Second, P2P connections require expensive transmission equipment for each link (vs. one for multiple links).  These costs can make it difficult for fixed wireless providers to competitively price broadband services, especially in residential markets where P2P equipment may be cost prohibitive for residential subscribers.

GeoLinks has advocated for the benefits of P2MP services in numerous filings before the Commission.  This technology creates opportunities to connect multiple users in a more cost-effective manner (even if miles apart), making it ideal for serving multiple customers in one area at a lower cost.  Despite the benefits of this technology, however, current spectrum policies hinder fixed wireless providers’ ability to take advantage of it.  For example, P2MP connections are more susceptible to congestion and interference caused from extensive use of the unlicensed bands, especially in urban, highly-populated areas. This makes high-quality P2MP connections over unlicensed spectrum nearly impossible in some areas, clearly refuting the concept that fixed wireless providers have all the spectrum they need.

Moreover, while there are a number of active proceedings before the Commission that may provide fixed wireless providers the ability to access additional licensed, light-licensed, or shared spectrum resources, many of those proceedings are also considering whether specific spectrum bands are better used for other uses (e.g. mobile wireless).  In addition, the outcomes of those proceedings are still very much pending before the Commission and the Commission should not foreclose the option of fixed wireless use in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band just because spectrum might be available in another band at some point.

The BAC’s suggested solution for the 3.7-4.2 GHz band addresses the current spectrum limitations experienced by fixed wireless providers by proposing practical options for P2MP use within the band that will not interfere with existing use by FSS Operators.  The Commission should reject any arguments that fixed wireless providers have enough spectrum now (or will eventually) and therefore the Commission should not consider expanded use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band.  Instead, GeoLinks urges the Commission to look to implement the BAC’s proposal and adopt spectrum policy that promotes innovation and competition.

  1. The Commission Should Adopt Robust Build-Out Requirements for the Band

As GeoLinks has advocated before, the Company believes that spectrum rights should be subject to robust build-out and “use it or lose it” requirements.  In its opening comments, the BAC supports the NPRM’s 12-month build-out period and proposes other build out requirements including limitations on channel reservation periods, minimum build-out standards for P2MP licensees, and limitations on P2MP spectrum use until build out is complete.[4]  GeoLinks supports these suggested build-out requirements and urges the Commission to adopt them.

  • CONCLUSION

GeoLinks supports the BAC’s opening comments submitted on the NPRM and urges the Commission to adopt its win-win-win proposal for the 3.7-4.2 GHz band.

 

Respectfully submitted,

GEOLINKS, LLC

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

/s/ Melissa Slawson, General Counsel/ V.P of Government Affairs and Education

 

November 27, 2018

[1]Expanding Flexible Use of the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz Band, Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, GN Docket No. 18-122, FCC 18-91 (rel. July 13, 2018) (“NPRM”).
[2]Comments of the Broadband Access Coalition, GN Docket 18-122 (filed October 29, 2018) (“BAC Comments”) at 3.
[3]Comments of the C-Band Alliance, GN Docket 18-122 (filed October 29, 2018) at 45.
[4]SeeBAC Comments at 25.
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Wireless Smart Farming to Keep Frost Away From Citrus

Wireless Smart Farming to Keep Frost Away From Citrus

UCSB SmartFarm sensor approximately 5 feet off the ground surrounded by citrus will help UC researchers know when to turn on windfans to protect plants from frost.

By Susan Rambo.

Computer science researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, are using the internet of things to prove that smart farming can be a farm implement as basic as the tractor and plough.

The husband and wife team of Chandra Krintz and Rich Wolski, both UCSB computer science professors, think data analytics can help tackle some of the tough challenges of modern agriculture. They want to apply the predictive mathematical leaps used in modern internet commerce to predict what people will buy, to agriculture. The pair created the UCSB SmartFarm program in response to what they see as the main issues of agriculture.

Krintz and Wolski cite U.S. Department of Agriculture and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization studies that say some scary stuff: increasingly more food is needed to feed the growing global population, and yet farm labor is in short supply or too expensive. Eighty percent of the fresh water and 30% of global energy is used to produce food, half of which we waste in spoilage. Farming also has some particularly tough foes: Pests and disease attack farms’ output and farm land is subsiding (sinking) — especially in California — because of groundwater overdraft. On top of all that, agriculture makes 22% of greenhouse gases.

The only way smart farming can make a dent on those issues is to attack specific problems. For Krintz and Wolski’s first test projects, they talked to the farmer — in this case, farm researchers — first before designing a system. Although almost every ag tech pitch begins with a summary of those issues, the UCSB computer scientists’ approach is to come up with scientifically vetted data about the usefulness of cloud and data analytics in farming.

The design parameters of behind UCSB SmartFarm’s Farm Cloud System is to make a system a farmer could love: it should be easy to use and work reliably, cheaply and privately — farmers don’t want their data accessible. The system needs to provide useful data to help increase yield, automate farm operations or save money (or all three), and the data must be available real time. The whole thing has to work without IT staff.

The self-managing system needs to work like an appliance, like your refrigerator, write Krintz and Wolski in a presentation about the project.

Krintz and Wolski are testing the system on nut trees at Fresno State and on citrus at the University of California’s Lindcove Research and Extension Center (LREC) near Visalia, Calif. The UCSB SmartFarm program has support from Google, Huawei, IBM Research, Microsoft Research, the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the California Energy Commission.

RCR Wireless News visited the LREC — a literal test bed for citrus and smart farming — and got the full tour of the UCSB’s Farm Cloud System.

Lindcove’s research mandate

The public is probably not aware that agricultural research centers, such as LREC (Lindcove), do the hard science that protects our food. In the case of Lindcove, hard science is the study of mostly citrus trees, and it means the grueling work of studying each tree.

Dr. Beth Grafton-Cardwell, research entomologist, an integrated pest management (IPM) specialist and Lindcove’s director remembers sorting fruit by hand.

“When I first started in 1990, if we harvested in January, we would stand in the field in our long underwear and they would pick fruit into a bin and we would have ring sizers that told us what size the fruit was. We would count the fruit and size the fruit and write it on a clip board on a piece of paper,” she said. “Now this machine can do this better.”

Standing near a huge packing line machine that dwarfed her, Grafton-Cardwell explained how the cameras and the extra sensors enable the machine to size and weigh the fruit, examine the outside of the fruit using three types of cameras and estimate the sugar levels inside. One piece of fruit goes through the machine at a time, for scientific purposes, which differs from how a normal packing house operates.

“If I am a researcher, each of my trees is a replication and a different situation, so I want to know everything there is to know about the fruit on that tree,” said Grafton-Cardwell. The cameras take about 30 photographs of each piece of fruit, rotating the fruit as they go. Every parameter from each piece of fruit is put into a spreadsheet: “We know the size, the shape, if it has scarring, the precise color,” said Grafton-Cardwell.

The growers paid for Lindcove’s packing line. “We can simulate anything you want to do on a commercial pack line,” said Grafton-Cardwell. Most packing houses have these machines but don’t use them the way researchers do. They use them for sorting fruit, not for collecting the precise data the researchers need.

“You have to train the machine to the colors and the blemishes. It can get overwhelming,” said Kurt Schmidt, Lindcove’s principal superintendent of agriculture. “We can slow everything down and gather an infinite amount of data.”

“The data sets are ginormous,” Grafton-Cardwell pointed out. Data and an interpretation of the data is the really the product that Lindcove produces.

Originally started in 1959 by University of California Riverside and San Joaquin Valley citrus growers, Lindcove helps growers try out treatments and crop varieties without experimenting on their own crops, which protects their orchards — and livelihood. “Researchers from around the state can come here and do experiments,” said Grafton-Cardwell. Lindcove focuses on creating new varietals and demonstrating gardens of hundreds of citrus — a demo garden that is repeated in several other locations, such as the desert, for comparison. The center is working on 30 research projects right now.

“Citrus grows quite easily statewide….there are 300,000 acres [planted] statewide. It’s all fresh market, [California growers] don’t do juice. If the growers produce for juice, they lose money,” said Grafton-Cardwell. Florida and Brazil are the juice producers.

“Their climate produces a better juice fruit,” said Schmidt.

Lindcove is one of nine research centers in the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) department. With soil and climate typical for the commercial citrus growing in the Central Valley of California, the Lindcove’s 175 idyllic acres may be tucked remotely against the Sierra foothills on the road to Sequoia National Park, but it’s on the forefront of fighting some pretty scary citrus pests.

The Huanglongbing (HLB) bacterium has the citrus industry in California in an increasing panic. This bacterium, spread by the Asian citrus psyllids, a small bug imported from Asia, has already made its way up through Mexico and is now in Southern California and spreading northward.

Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease, is killing trees at alarming rates and there is no cure yet. “It has devastated Florida. Huanglongbing has knocked their acreage down by 50 percent,” said Grafton-Cardwell. “We are trying to get some proactive research going to prepare for the arrival of the disease in the commercial citrus. Right now it is just in residential backyards, but it is going to get to the commercial citrus in the near future,” said Grafton-Cardwell.

In California, it is particularly hard to control because of the prevalence of backyard citrus trees.

“Right now it is just in Southern California. We are up to about 650 trees in Southern California that tested positive,” said Grafton-Cardwell. All of those infected trees were in residential yards. Therein lies the problem: An estimated 60% of homeowners have a citrus tree in their yard. “That’s like 15 million citrus trees. How do you manage a disease when you’ve got 30 million commercial trees and 15 million residential trees? It is very difficult,” she said. “Homeowners don’t understand plant disease, they don’t understand how to manage the pest, they don’t understand the risk.”

Unrelated to HLB, but nonetheless an insurance policy for all citrus growers, is Lindcove’s Citrus Clonal Protection Program (CCPP) out of UCR. Lindcove preserves and archives original budwood of citrus varieties as part of CCPP. Large screenhouses — greenhouses with screens instead of glass — hold clean budwood, which nurseries, growers and even citrus enthusiasts can use to propagate citrus plants. The citrus buds are grafted to rootstock and grown into trees in the screenhouses, where they are protected from insects.

The screens on these structures are “rated for thrips” — so fine that thrips or psyllids can’t get through it. Recently when one of the screens had a breach, the CCPP program restarted all the trees in the screenhouse to make sure they were free of insects and disease. This is serious business.

First, the network

Lindcove has a new network capability now. “We are really excited,” said Dr. Grafton-Cardwell. “It has taken us ten years to get to the point where we have a network that can support all this, because we are out in the boonies.”

Lindcove now uses the fiber network from CENIC — the non-profit network operator for the California universities, colleges, schools and libraries — and fixed wireless company GeoLinks for last-mile wireless.

“We were getting our internet from a local provider here in Visalia with limited bandwidth for a lot of money,” said Schmidt. “So now we’ve got this big connection that has the potential to have a large bandwidth. We’re in pretty good shape.”

“ANR pushed really hard in the last couple years to develop the funding to do this for all the research and extension centers, all nine of them, because we were all created back in the 1950s, and most of us in the boonies, and none of us had decent network capability. For scientists in this day and age to do research, it is totally revolutionary,” said Grafton-Cardwell. “When I first came in 1990, we weren’t able to do any of this stuff. Computing was really primitive and now it is going to improve what we do.”

Smart farm at Lindcove

“I didn’t even know what the internet of things was before Rich Wolski explained it,” said Grafton-Cardwell, but now she can’t wait to get it.

The goal of the UCSB’s smart farm test at Lindcove is to improve the decision making for frost protection for citrus growers, which should help reduce costs and carbon footprint.

Schmidt pointed out the culprit: the big wind machines on citrus farms. These wind machines are needed because the typical inversion layer of warmer air holds cold air to the ground, which damages fruit. The wind machines circulate the air when frost is imminent. It costs a lot to run the wind machines, which run on propane. That’s not even counting the cost of having to run around to the fields in a truck, taking temperature readings at all hours to make a decision when to turn on the wind machines.

Krintz and Wolski’s team of students have installed low-cost, sturdy weather stations that can withstand the elements and accurately sense temperature and humidity at 5 feet and 30 feet from the ground. The stations are installed to be able to monitor 3 feet from the boundaries of where the wind machines cover. The poles also have surveillance cameras with infrared capability to allow more temperature measurement, beyond regular thermometers. A network station in the field moves the data to the office on-site. Drones could be used “on the fly” to monitor at different levels.

Measuring and estimating the evaporation and transpiration under the tree canopy and sending that data to the office means that someone like Kurt Schmidt won’t have to manually take the temperature every hour at all hours, to determine when to turn on the fans. Also, tapping into Schmidt’s knowledge of when the fans need to be turned on will help inform the system; Krintz and Wolski can write software to automate the fans operations. Having more detailed information in real time means saving fuel if one windfan on one end of a microclimate doesn’t need to be turned on, even though others may need to run.

This frost experiment is only the beginning.

“We have a laboratory here that has equipment in it that again, we could be connecting,” said Grafton-Cardwell. “One of the things I proposed to Chandra [Krintz] and Rich [Wolski], is we have all these data in separate units. The pack line generates data, we are collecting data from the field. That is going into files. The data aren’t connected in any shape or form.”

Grafton-Cardwell’s ultimate goal is to have a researcher go into a portal and view all the data associated with their research.

This article originally appeared in the RCR Wireless News, July 17, 2018, and is re-posted with permission in the UC IT Blog.

Photo of Susan RamboSusan Rambo covers 5G for RCR Wireless News.

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