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Radio Ranch assists Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club with installation 

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John Thornton with students who are holding a dish and testing the link.

Equipment to be used in the event of a widespread internet outage to provide high-speed data services

Paso Robles Radio Ranch owners John and Jane Thornton recently welcomed the Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club to install equipment to be used in the event of a widespread internet outage to provide high-speed data services in support of public safety.

“We are pleased to be able to assist these students with this project,” said John, “and to help them with their amateur radio operations.”

Paso Robles Radio Ranch provided equipment and is hosting tower space. Radio Ranch is a commercial telecom facility whose owners, Jane and John Thornton are also amateur radio operators.

The project titled AREDN – Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network will provide ad hoc wireless connections between many areas of San Luis Obispo County. Much of this network is built using donated surplus wireless Internet equipment that is modified to work on non-commercial amateur radio frequencies.

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Climbing the tower to install the equipment. Photos by Paso Robles Radio Ranch.

The project is supported by SLO County Communications and the San Luis Obispo Emergency Communication Council. Local communities are learning of the benefits of the technology, and it is anticipated that many of the emergency command centers in the county will have access. The intent of the project is to provide video, email, and telephone services between areas of the county as needed during an event.

The backbone of the project includes a wireless link between Paso Robles and Cuesta Peak and will include the cities of Paso Robles, Los Osos, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, and connects with Cuesta Peak and Cal Poly University. Future plans include extending coverage to larger areas of San Luis Obispo County and interconnecting this network with one that extends to Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles.

Amateur radio operators will hone their skills with the technology on a day-to-day basis by sharing video feeds, IP telephone connections, and emails that do not rely on the internet for transport. One of the purposes of the amateur radio service is to provide a group of experienced radio operators and technicians who can support public communication needs in the event of a disaster.

The skills developed may be used in support of fire, earthquake, and evacuation center response. A similar volunteer effort in Ventura provided firefighters with real-time images of the Thomas Fire and was instrumental in providing the only images of the origin of the fire as well as the spread of the fire over the duration of the event.

-By Ruth Ann Angus

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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at info@pasoroblesdailynews.com.