Tag Archives: silicon valley

You don’t have to drive to Silicon Valley if you’re already there

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Santa Cruz broadband policy keeps business in town, Silicon Valley leaders say.

Smart application of good broadband development policy helps local economies grow by attracting new businesses and helping existing ones grow. The place to look for it is Santa Cruz County, according to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. It’s an example that Silicon Valley sorely needs.

The group, which was founded in 1978 by David Packard and represents about 400 of Silicon Valley’s heaviest corporate hitters, announced it was giving its “Turning Red Tape into Red Carpet” award to Santa Cruz County, and supervisor Zach Friend in particular, recognising his effort over the past year and a half to simplify the rules for planting broadband infrastructure in public roads and placing it on county property.

He was supposed to receive it at a ceremony last week, but it was cancelled by heavy rain. On the balance, that was probably a plus – we need water right now as much as broadband. But unlike water, broadband never falls from the sky. It has to be built and local governments can make it easy or hard to do. Silicon Valley’s leaders think Santa Cruz County is making it particularly easy.

“The award recognizes economic development initiatives that focus on retaining and growing existing businesses within the community or region”, according to the SLVG press release announcing that Santa Cruz won its the business retention and expansion award. It’s one of six categories on the annual honors list.

Real estate developments, environmental programs and a new U.S. patent office in Silicon Valley were also recognised, along with another broadband initiative, San Jose’s public WiFi system, also known as the Wickedly Fast Connected Experience.

It’s the second accolade in as many months: the California Broadband Council just posted drafts of Santa Cruz County’s broadband policy as examples for the rest of the state. The initiative isn’t complete, though. The Santa Cruz County board of supervisors approved the policies in concept back in January, but county staff are still chewing on the details. Expect something final and, hopefully, comprehensive early next year.

Silicon Valley cities offer few concessions for Google Fiber

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Five Silicon Valley cities made Google’s list of 34 fiber candidates, the only cities in California to do so. The deadline to complete the Google Fiber checklist was 1 May 2014. Each city responded, or not, in its own way.

Mountain View: Google’s home town likes the idea of fiber, but says it doesn’t review proposed construction plans as quickly or comprehensively as the company wants. Its solution is to hire more staff at Google’s expense. Putting equipment cabinets on streets would mean negotiating with local residents. The city council voted to move ahead on that basis, with some members threatening an even harder line down the road.

Palo Alto: The most enthusiastic and public facing response came from a city where publicly-funded fiber-to-the-premise has been under study for ten years (including two research reports that I did). Not only did Palo Alto give Google all the data it requested and agreed to nearly all of its terms (albeit by saying its current practice meets spec), it also posted it all on the city’s web site. Lots of good, geeky reading. I particularly enjoyed Pacific Telephone and Telegraph’s 1909 utility pole manual. Not much has changed in 100 years.

San Jose: Staff submitted a report to the city council saying it finished the checklist except, as in the other cities, for lease terms for fiber huts on public property. Apparently that’s a knotty problem in Silicon Valley, one that could yet be a deal killer. The city council has delayed discussion of the report until June. Reading between the lines, though, it appears that San Jose is telling Google that existing procedures are good enough, while setting aside $100,000 to offset extra internal costs.

Santa Clara: Not a public peep so far from Santa Clara, since a self-congratulatory press release back in February. If the city responded to the checklist, it was done quietly. So far, I haven’t found any indication it was ever discussed by the city council.

Sunnyvale: Up to a point, Sunnyvale staff thinks existing construction review and permitting practices are flexible enough to handle the project, but a report to the city council warns “Google does want to move faster than our current processes or staffing would allow”.

It’s hard to say if Silicon Valley cities are genuinely interested in making substantive changes to standard operating procedures in order to lure Google Fiber. Or whether any of them can. The responses were friendly enough to give the appearance of cooperation – politically necessary in Silicon Valley, where no one wants to be blamed for blocking a fiber upgrade – but, Palo Alto aside, lacked the specificity and enthusiasm of competitors like San Antonio. Barely better, in fact, than stroppy Portland.

CPUC connects Salinas Valley to Silicon Valley with fast, cheap fiber

A 91-mile fiber optic middle network for the Salinas Valley, stretching from Santa Cruz in the north, to Watsonville, Moss Landing, Castroville, Salinas, Gonzales and Soledad in the south, is on the way. On a unanimous vote this morning, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a $10.6 million grant to Sunesys, LLC from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF).

“The key point for me was that typically that these projects only make a price commitment for two years”, said Commissioner Michel Florio. “In this case the provider has made a commitment for at least five years, maybe as long as fourteen years”.

Pointing out that there are “still more jobs in agriculture” in the Salinas Valley than in an other sector, Commissioner Catherine Sandoval highlighted the acute need for better broadband access in the area, as expressed at public meetings the CPUC held in Salinas last year. “This could be a game changer”, she said. “This is a middle mile project, a back bone that is critical”.

The project will bring low cost wholesale fiber access to Salinas Valley Internet service providers and major commercial and institutional customers all along its route, at a maximum cost of $1,550 per month for any contracts, of any length signed in the first five years. By comparison, unsubsidised dark fiber can cost up to ten times as much. The network will interconnect with major north-south fiber lines in Salinas and Soledad, and terminate in Santa Cruz where Sunesys earlier built a dark fiber connection to Santa Clara, which provides access to several Tier 1 exchanges in Silicon Valley.

Since the Santa Clara connection was built 4 years ago, the price of wholesale Internet bandwidth in Santa Cruz has dropped by a factor of one hundred, to less than a dollar a megabit per month. Cruzio, a local ISP, leveraged this access to light up last mile fiber optic connections for downtown Santa Cruz businesses and improve speed and reliability for thousands of consumers. This new line is expected to do the same for Salinas Valley communities.

On the retail side, the commission also approved CASF funding for two last mile projects in the Paradise Road and Monterey Dunes areas of northern Monterey County, proposed by Surfnet Communications, a local ISP (and a Ponderosa Telephone project in Fresno County), albeit without the haircut proposed by Florio.. These two systems are the first of what are expected to be many consumer and small business-oriented projects that connect directly to the Sunesys middle mile network.

Gonzales councilman Robert Bonincontri and city manager Rene Mendez told commissioners of the tremendous need for connectivity in the Salinas Valley, where unemployment rates are high and household income levels are low, even when work is available. The social and economic impact of the project, coupled with its financial viability – demonstrated by the Surfnet proposals, as noted in the approved resolution – was the reason commissioners opted to fund 80% of its construction cost. Normally, CASF grants are limited to between 60% and 70% of the tab.

The next step is to finalise construction plans and route details, with completion expected within two years.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted with several CASF proposals in the current round, including the Sunesys and Surfnet projects, so I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

Santa Cruz becomes the place Silicon Valley wants to be

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Sticking out like a surfboard in a cubicle farm, Santa Cruz has risen to the top of Silicon Valley’s hot spots for 2014. It’s a top 5 tech mecca for the coming year, according to Silicon Valley Business Journal, and the only one of the bunch with local culture that rises above strip malls, fast food and bad haircuts.

According to author Lauren Hepler

Hippie beach enclave no more? A gaggle of politicians, entrepreneurs and deep-pocketed investors want to diversify from Santa Cruz County’s $500-million-a-year reliance on summer tourism.

Look for Surf City startups like co-working company NextSpace and business intelligence firm Looker to spur more entrepreneurial activity as politicians push for better broadband and increased telecommuting to Silicon Valley proper.

In recent years, Santa Cruz has radically transformed its market positioning and image: it’s now a young, cool and techie Silicon Valley beach town, not a 1960s vintage work-free drug zone. A counter-culture underside still simmers, but Santa Cruz is showing a 21st century cleantech face to the world, and the world is noticing.

Supervisor Zach Friend, mayor Hillary Bryant and venture capitalist Bud Colligan distinguished themselves as local leaders this year, and can rightly take bows for Santa Cruz’s high tech makeover. But they are building on a campaign of disruption and geek activism that began in 2007, and many can take credit for it.

With no slight meant to anyone’s passion, action and success, I’d like call out for special honors Margaret Rosas, who breathed life into SantaCruzGeeks and made technology social; Jeremy Neuner and Ryan Coonerty, who launched a commercial real estate revolution – NextSpace – at the nadir of a global crash; and Peter Koht, who was so good at disrupting city government from the inside that the Knight Foundation gave him the cash to do it on a national scale. Young entrepreneurs, like Sol Lipman, Shane Pearlman and Sean Tario didn’t bother to think outside of the box, they just ignored it. With forums to build on like Sara isenberg’s Santa Cruz Tech Beat, the New Tech Meetup and Civinomics, this new community will thrive.

Thank you for 2014!

And a h/t to Sara for tipping me off on this story – good luck in the New Year.