If you dig broadband in Santa Cruz, just dig once

28 January 2014 by Steve Blum
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Caput likes the Santa Cruz economy just the way it is. Or something like that.

Any work done on public roads or otherwise in county right of ways in Santa Cruz County will have to include broadband facilities in the future. County supervisors approved a telecommunications infrastructure improvement ordinance today, although there’s still some work to be done to bring put what’s called a “dig once” policy completely into effect.

The ordinance was part of a package of broadband improvement measures championed by Aptos supervisor Zach Friend that won approval on a 4 to 1 vote. Watsonville supervisor Greg Caput voted no. He didn’t seem to have any specific objection to the dig once rule, he just generally didn’t want to change anything. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, I’m saying it’s not broken”, Caput said.

What’s broken, according to local broadband advocate Larry Samuels, is a local economy that sends thousands of commuters and millions of dollars in commerce over the hill to San Jose and beyond. “Almost all my friends – their kids have left because there are no jobs here”, Samuels told supervisors.

Also approved today were outlines of boilerplate contract language the county will use to lease facilities – towers or rooftops, for example – to telecoms companies and standard specifications for installing broadband conduit.

Most of the debate concerned an item that won’t formally be considered for at least a couple of months: giving the public works department sole authority over broadband infrastructure construction, eliminating separate reviews by the county’s planning department. Besides streamlining broadband upgrades, it would also bring Santa Cruz County’s process into compliance with state and federal rules that limit local control of broadband infrastructure, much the same as with other utilities.