Bringing ubiquitous high speed broadband to the Monterey Bay region requires goals set and pursued at the grass roots level, but benchmarked against a regional plan and standards. That was the top line consensus from a roundtable brainstorming session at the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership’s third annual State of the Region conference, held last week in Monterey.
The region takes in San Benito, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. It quickly became apparent that one size would never fit all in an area that bundles high tech Santa Cruz and uber-rich Pebble Beach with Salinas Valley farming towns, the Paicines cattle country and the isolated peaks of the Santa Lucia and Gabilan mountains. The solution was a five step process that creates a range of commonly defined standards and objectives that would be applied locally, as deemed appropriate by individual communities:
- Get upfront, region wide buy-in to a regional broadband development master plan with a small contribution to its cost from a sufficient number of local governments, businesses and other organisations. If they’ll pay a little to create the plan, then it’s likelier they’ll pay more to implement it. If not, it’s best to know now.
- Prepare the master plan and in the process establish a broadband development baseline and a ladder of well defined service tiers above it.
- Outline the steps necessary to reach each successive tier, with options for a local government to go it alone or collaborate with similar situated communities across the region.
- Create a neutral certification program that documents and validates each community’s climb up the commonly agreed service tier ladder.
- As each step up the ladder is certified, automatically move to the next one, at a pace determined by local needs, aspirations and resources.
The group also made it clear that broadband service standards aren’t only about speeds. Affordability and direct access to basic building blocks, such as dark fiber, are just as important. So is differentiating between residential needs and the more complex and tightly defined broadband service requirements of businesses.
The next step is to form a regional leadership team that will, as the roundtable session’s title put it, move “from ideas to action”.