CPUC approves broadband priorities developed by Central Coast Broadband Consortium

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

Twelve central coast communities have been designated as priority areas for broadband infrastructure development by the California Public Utilities Commission. In a unanimous vote on Thursday, 26 June 2014, commissioners endorsed the list presented in March by the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, following a month-long workshop on Civinomics.com.

The Pleasure Point/Twin Lakes neighborhood down coast from the City of Santa Cruz, the Brookdale area in the mountains and the town of Soquel made the list, along with Aromas, two rural areas outside of Hollister and six Salinas Valley communities: Castroville, Chualar, Gonzales, Soledad, Greenfield and King City.

The Civinomics workshop focused on developing a quantitative ranking system. In the end, the primary criteria used were social and economic impact, project feasibility and, crucially, availability of broadband service. The more homes that don’t have access to service that meets the CPUC’s minimum standard of 6 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload speed, the greater the likelihood that grants and loans to build modern infrastructure will be available from the California Advanced Services Fund.

And that’s the other half of what commissioners approved on Thursday. A new round of CASF project proposals will begin in December. Existing broadband providers – Comcast, Charter and AT&T, in particular – were put on notice. Either they make a commitment to the commission that they’ll upgrade the substandard service in those communities or face subsidised competition from ISPs who will.

Being on the list doesn’t guarantee funding (nor does not being on the list preclude it). But the CPUC has already invested $11 million in building a fiber optic backbone from Santa Cruz to Soledad, and would like nothing better than to see it used to deliver gigabit-class service to homes and businesses here.