Benicia, California is ready to invest in its broadband future

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Benicia’s broadband report card shows average or better service in revenue-dense residential areas, but failing grades in its industrial economic engine.

The City of Benicia, in the northern San Francisco Bay Area, is jumpstarting industrial grade broadband development. The city council gave a green light to a plan to put $750,000 the table and ask private companies to come up with ideas for bringing high capacity broadband access to a prime industrial park and the surrounding area.

Tellus Venture Associates evaluated the broadband facilities available in and around the Benicia Industrial Park. I presented our analysis last week, recommending that the city explore a public-private partnership, with both incumbent and competitive carriers, to build high capacity infrastructure, including links to Tier 1 exchanges. $750,000, previously earmarked by the council, sweetens the pot for the project.

A few high tech companies have trickled into the Benicia Industrial Park in recent years, but many others have passed it by because broadband service is limited to whatever AT&T’s ageing lines can support. Comcast, despite what it tells the public (and the California Public Utilities Commission), is missing in action. Some companies have solved their connectivity problems with custom wireless or wireline solutions, but those are expensive and only capable of addressing specific needs.

High capacity, long haul fiber routes bracket the park, coming in from the north and east and converging on the Benicia-Martinez bridge, which provides a route over the Carquinez Strait. This legacy industrial area is just a splice point away from the twenty-first century.

The next step is to finalise a request for proposal (or similar) and see what interest it might generate amongst telecoms companies. Watch for it.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.