2015 a broadband breakout year for California’s central coast

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Santa Cruz Tech Beat, for which I sometimes write, published its picks for top stories of 2014. It’s a good list and takes a holistic view of the local tech scene and economy. Looking ahead, I think the ground work that was done this year will drive next year’s success. So, my predictions for the top local broadband stories of 2015 are…

3 – Sunesys fiber line breaks ground
The $10.6 million grant from the California Public Utilities Commission was justified by the benefit delivered to the Salinas Valley — which is substantial, real and sufficient grounds for spending the money. But the most immediate benefit – maybe as soon as 2015 – is likely to be felt in Santa Cruz County, along the Soquel Drive corridor. Surfnet has approval for two Monterey County projects. Cruzio has publicly discussed its intention to use the Sunesys fiber to bring fast Internet to businesses and institutions along the way. The fiber will help light up Watsonville’s muni fiber too – see below. Huge credit goes to Brad Smith and Jim Warner at U.C. Santa Cruz. They had a lot of help from the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, but bottom line, they’re the guys that got it done.

2 – Santa Cruz County broadband policy initiative becomes reality.
Locally, 2014 has been a year more of delay than progress for the effort to rewrite Santa Cruz County’s broadband infrastructure development policies. But that’s often the way new public policy initiatives go – the first to go down a road tread carefull. The good news is there’s an increasingly long line of other agencies, here on the central coast, in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in California, that are falling in behind, happy to let Santa Cruz County walk point but ready to jump in when the time is right.

Add in the fact that several projects are in the pipeline for 2015 and should also get a boost from the new rules, and the impact will be stunning.

1 – The local tech economy booms.
The emphasis by local governments on cutting red tape for companies and broadband projects alike, combined with fiber backbone projects in Watsonville and Hollister, the existing Suneys line between Santa Cruz and Santa Clara, and the extension to Soledad mentioned above, will stoke the already hot technology scene. Looker’s expansion in downtown Santa Cruz, the mysterious Magic Leap virtual reality project there as well and the beginnings of a tech youth movement in Watsonville are just three examples.

Tech development goes where broadband flows, and broadband is flooding into the central coast. That’ll drive the news in 2015.

Then there’s the unpredictable: the best things tomorrow almost certainly will be things we have no way of knowing about today.

Happy New Year!