Report card: competition boosts broadband in California's East Bay region

28 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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Top and bottom of the chart.

The best residential broadband in California’s East Bay region is in the City of Concord. It was the only one of the forty cities studied that rated an “A” grade in research conducted for the East Bay Broadband Consortium (EBBC) by Tellus Venture Associates.

The neighboring cities of Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill received “B” grades, with a high “C” given to Berkeley and Alameda. The common characteristic amongst all five is competition. Central Contra Costa County – Concord, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill – has three primary carriers competing to deliver broadband, telephone and television service to residences: AT&T, Comcast and Astound Broadband.

Berkeley is one of Sonic’s focus markets and the City of Alameda has a legacy of three competing carriers. Comcast bought out the municipal broadband utility there in 2008, but the infrastructure that resulted from several years of intense competition lives on.

The bottom five cities – Rio Vista, Moraga, Orinda, Clayton, Dixon – share one or more of three key characteristics. Rural surroundings, local resistance to construction and challenging terrain play a role in shaping residential broadband availability.

Big picture, the region is right around the statewide “C” average, with Solano County getting a C-, Alameda County a C and Contra Costa County a C+.

Mobile and commercial/industrial broadband availability was also analyzed. In general, mobile coverage in the region is good but not necessarily as good as carriers’ marketing claims would have you believe. Commercial and industrial class broadband is likewise widely available, although there are sometimes stark differences when it’s compared on a block by block and parcel by parcel basis.

The initial results of the East Bay Broadband Report Card study were presented this morning to the EBBC’s quarterly meeting meeting in Oakland. Detailed maps are available here. The final report is due next month.