Growing a region’s economy and protecting its quality of life with broadband

by Steve Blum • , , , , , , ,

Economic development pros at CCBC workshop.

“The goal is to put in infrastructure that supports 10 Gbps,” explained Patrick Mulhearn at the Central Coast Broadband Consortium’s (CCBC) economic development workshop this morning. Mulhearn works for Santa Cruz County supervisor Zach Friend, who is leading the effort there to overhaul the the way county manages and regulates the construction of broadband infrastructure. He pointed to two key policies approved by supervisors…

  • Allow the installation of equipment within public right of ways, subject only to “time, place and manner” of access, through the County’s encroachment permit process.
  • Streamline the application project and ensure permit fees are based on actual costs.

It’s not just about putting fiber in the ground, though. Mulhearn talked about developing a broadband master plan that parallels the county’s economic vitality program and targets those priority areas for broadband infrastructure deployment.

The overall policy has been approved, but the specific, detailed language that’ll be used to implement it is still being written, with first drafts expected early in the new year. Completion is expected by next June.

New broadband infrastructure, in the form of nearly 600 miles of fiber optic backbone, is being used in different ways to boost the economy of eastern California, according to Julie Langou of the Eastern Sierra Connect Regional Broadband Consortium. The recently completed Digital 395 project connects Mono, Inyo and eastern Kern counties to cheap and plentiful bandwidth at major Internet hubs.

Mono County is using this new connectivity to cultivate independent professionals and entrepreneurs who can work remotely and Inyo County is focusing on growing its retail trade base. Aerospace businesses are the priority in Kern County, which is home to the Mojave Space Port and the U.S. Navy’s China Lake research center.

The workshop was hosted by the Monterey County Business Council and sponsored by the CCBC, as part of its broadband infrastructure development initiative funded by the California Public Utilities Commission.