“Infrastructure is already inadequate and it’s being pulled back”, Peggy Dolgenos, CEO of Cruzio, a local independent ISP, told supervisors after the presentation. It’s a drag on the local economy, not in terms of attracting new businesses, but also “the survival the ones that are here”.
No action was taken on the prospective plan, except to ask county staff to come back next month with recommendations for next steps. Even that was controversial, though, with Watsonville area supervisor Greg Caput voting against it, as he has opposed previous efforts to shake up the status quo and put competitive pressure on big incumbent providers, particularly AT&T, Comcast and Charter. Representatives from Comcast and Charter were at the meeting but didn’t say anything about the proposal. At least not publicly.
If supervisors want to get directly involved in building a fiber network, one of the first questions they’ll have to answer is whether the county would do it on its own – build, own and operate the system – or give the job to an independent, non-commercial organisation. “Taking on that liability, taking on that cost is a difficult thing to do”, said Aptos area supervisor Zach Friend, who said the county should be open to partnering with others – an agency or non-profit group – to get it done.
Build an open access fiber backbone network through areas Santa Cruz County that are high priorities for economic development: that’s the recommendation county supervisors will hear later this morning when they consider a draft broadband master plan.
The study, prepared for the county by Design Nine, includes a number of useful recommendations about broadband policy and planning, but the center piece is an independently operated fiber system that focuses on five key areas of Santa Cruz County. It would directly connect some business, institutional and government locations, and could form the basis for fiber service directly to nearby homes. According to the report…
The potential projects are located in Davenport, Live Oak, the Medical Area, Upper 41st and the Aptos Area. There is also a larger project that groups Live Oak, the Medical Area and Upper 41st as part of the Urban Core Backbone. These are all areas where the [fiber initiative] could partner with local service providers to invest in a last mile fiber network.
It is clearly a conceptual plan. There are a lot of critical details that need to be fleshed out, not least of which is how to pay for it. The estimated cost of the core network – which doesn’t include all the lateral fiber, drops, electronics and other elements needed to deliver comprehensive fiber-to-the-home service – is in the $9 million to $10 million range…
This “whole network” estimate includes all segments for a total of 43 miles of new fiber construction and connects 193 buildings (out of a total of 4,176 passed). This initial fiber network would be considered the core for a larger buildout for the entire County.
No particular action is expected today, but the report should set the stage to move ahead in March with broadband policy reforms.
Santa Cruz County supervisors edged closer to opening up a fast track for broadband infrastructure development this morning. With four yes votes and a no, they blessed a progress report from the planning department, which is trying to get out of the business of deciding whether broadband facilities meet arcane and contentious land use rules. That process is better suited to figuring out where to build businesses and homes, for example, than designing broadband networks. The job would be given to the public works department, which already handles design and construction standard reviews for other utility projects.
A big part of the work is focused on adapting old rules to new technology, such as…
Updating the types of wireless facilities that are exempted from development review and use permit requirements, including newer technology such as Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) and other utility pole-mounted microcells that would be no longer subject to land use permit approval if installed in public rights-of-way.
Santa Cruz County’s rules governing wireless facilities would also be brought into conformance with new state and, particularly, federal rules.
It was a small step in the process and, all things considered, the fact that only three people spoke against it might also be reckoned as minimal opposition. As usual, they weren’t terribly specific about their concerns, which ranged from WiFi to fluorescent lights to dirty electricity (whatever that is) to microchips in kittens.
The man behind Santa Cruz’s broadband push, Aptos supervisor Zach Friend, was joined by Neal Coonerty, Bruce McPherson and John Leopold in voting yes. As usual, Watsonville’s Greg Caput voted no, saying he didn’t have enough information to make up his mind. Maybe a faster Internet connection would help?