Santa Cruz broadband policy overhaul moves ahead, despite divisions

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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.

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