Private capital is part of the investment plan for broadband on California’s central coast

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

Nice location for a meeting.

The California Public Utilities Commission paid a visit to Carmel this month. Periodically, the commissioners hold hearings and conduct meetings in different communities around the state. This time, they met with local leaders, conducted a regular voting meeting and held a two hour public participation meeting where anyone could speak for three minutes.

Several members of the Central Coast Broadband Consortium attended, to talk about what we’re doing and what we need here. James Hackett, Cruzio Internet’s business development manager, told commissioners about the demand for broadband, when it’s available…

In the past, telecommunications was classed as a public utility: similarly to electricity, gas or water, infrastructure was regulated and shared due to the high costs of construction and maintenance. Funds were provided or fee structures established to encourage universal service. Following deregulatory trends in the 1990s and 2000s, however, this system no longer exists.

In many areas of the Central Coast, population and business density do not reach the levels required for ongoing investment by national ISPs. We tend to fall into a monopoly or duopoly situation typical of similar areas: a captive market paying high prices for relatively poor service.

Cruzio is an independent local Internet Service Provider and we recognize the need for a larger broadband infrastructure investment plan in our area. For the past several years we have built our own independent infrastructure, participated in the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and also created ad hoc groups to identify local interested parties, available assets and mutual goals.

Currently Cruzio operates a fiberoptic backhaul path that terminates in downtown Santa Cruz. We have tremendous bandwidth available at low cost to customers in Santa Cruz County, but to serve the whole area we will need to extend our high-speed backbone. This alone is a big project and it’s only one part of serving the whole community.

True broadband coverage requires building infrastructure to every neighborhood, sometimes to every home and office. Even residential neighborhoods in the area house start-up companies that are often highly technical in nature and could use an infrastructure with the capabilities found in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Many of those homes are in hilly or otherwise difficult to reach areas and the initial cost of these builds is a hurdle. Increased state funding would be a massive help.

In the meantime, Cruzio is working on building out pockets of bandwidth wirelessly from our fiber backbone. When backed with wired-backhaul infrastructure, modern fixed-wireless technology is an economical, flexible, and reliable solution for both middle-mile and last-mile bandwidth and should be understood and included as part of any overall broadband strategy.

Cruzio’s high-speed wireless services have proved extremely popular and in the last year alone we’ve set up dozens of new connections. Wherever we’ve built out broadband, we’ve seen overwhelming demand and usage. Increased state funding would dramatically accelerate this deployment.

Broadband infrastructure growth is essential to the economic vitality of the Central Coast. We have a great deal of tech talent leaving the area every day and many thousands of square feet of empty real estate that a robust broadband network would help to fill. In a modern economy bandwidth is a utility as important as electricity or water, and modern business needs state-of-the-art Internet to thrive. Increased state funding would enable larger-scale and faster deployment, encouraging retention and growth of current business, as well as movement of new business into the area.