Local broadband policy models presented to central Sierra policy makers

Like it or not, convincing an incumbent provider to invest in improving broadband infrastructure in your community means putting a better deal in front of them than they can get elsewhere. Both Google and AT&T have money to spend on fiber upgrades, but not very much, relatively speaking. So they’re issuing short lists of cities, and then sitting back and waiting to see what those candidates put on the table.

Two things top their wish lists: getting permits quicker and cheaper, and access to public right of ways and real estate. I talked about how local agencies can go about doing that at Thursday’s community broadband conference in Tuolumne City, organised by the Central Sierra Connect Broadband Consortium.

Examples include the broadband policy initiatives that are moving forward in Santa Cruz County, including “dig once” rules that encourage installation of conduit anytime road construction work is done and a simple, over the counter permit process. The man responsible for those changes, Aptos supervisor Zach Friend, also spoke at the meeting – more on that later – sharing lessons learned with a roomful of elected leaders and top administrators from several central Sierra cities and counties.

Loma Linda’s experience with mandatory fiber connections in newly built homes and Watsonville’s success in mapping broadband assets and using that data to build a network also figured in the presentation.

I closed by talking about counter examples, cases where poor policy has led to even poorer broadband access, particularly Google’s experience in Overland Park, Kansas and a look at why Piedmont – one of the most affluent cities in California – has the worst broadband infrastructure in Alameda County.