Santa Cruz broadband policy overhaul moves ahead, despite divisions


Tired of waiting for fiber.

Santa Cruz County supervisors approved an eight-month time line today for rewriting plans and rules regulating new broadband infrastructure. Originally proposed by Aptos supervisor Zach Friend, the goal is a comprehensive set of policies that shortens the approval process and ensures that broadband is an integral part of future new construction projects.

At Friend’s suggestion, the board agreed to tie broadband infrastructure plans to economic development goals. While working out the implementation details of the new broadband construction policies, staff will also be developing a master plan for new infrastructure that reflects development priorities in the county’s economic vitality strategy.

The vote was split along the same lines as last time. Bruce McPherson and Neal Coonerty joined Friend in voting yes, as did an ambivalent John Leopold who repeated his desire to keep a greater level of control over broadband construction, particularly by large corporations. “It’s not a good idea to give up our rights”, he said, calling it “a slippery slope”.

Greg Caput voted against the whole package, keeping faith with a mercifully short parade of anti-wireless people worried about microchips in pets, the effect of cell towers on mountain lions and some connection – it wasn’t quite clear what – between broadband policy and medical marijuana. “God bless you Marilyn”, Caput said in reply. “I believe you”.

The first piece of the puzzle – regarding permit costs – is due next month, with the rest coming bit by bit. An update on the entire process is scheduled for the end of January. It’s all supposed to be finished by next June.

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.