Santa Cruz County supervisors move forward with comprehensive broadband policy

Plenty of coverage, but it’s not much good without the capacity to go with it.

After being duly warned about the World Bank’s global domination conspiracy, the danger of fluoridating water and the threat to honey bees posed by mobile phones, the Santa Cruz County, California board of supervisors approved recommendations for encouraging and assisting the deployment of new and upgraded broadband infrastructure.

County staff presented the findings of a report on barriers to construction of broadband facilities in general, including fiber optic lines, rural terminal boxes and, yes, wireless facilities.

Championed by supervisor Zach Friend, who represents the Aptos area, the new policy measures would simplify and standardise the way the county reviews and approves new conduit construction and collocation of other broadband infrastructure, wired and wireless, on structures owned or regulated by the county.

“We have thirty thousand car trips over the hill each day. It would be nice to reduce that,” Friend said. “We do have a lot of coverage but I don’t think we have a lot of capacity, we need to increase the capacity and the competition.”

The vote was four in favor, one against. John Leopold, whose district includes Soquel and the mountain communities to the east, didn’t like the idea that the county wouldn’t be able to tell broadband companies what their roadside equipment boxes should look like. He was finally mollified, though, by assurances that the language in the actual ordinances – still to be drafted and approved – would address his concerns. Greg Caput, the supervisor from the Watsonville area, voted against the entire package in a show of solidarity with the dozen or so members of the tin foil hat brigade who expressed outrage, fear and gibberish during public comments.

Several local broadband and economic development advocates also spoke, thanking the supervisors for a the package of broadband-friendly policies, one of the most comprehensive in California.

“It’s crucial to our economic development, we have a very creative and wired community, and broadband can help us grow with that,” said Peggy Dolgenos, CEO of Cruzio, a local independent ISP. “I hope the board will look beyond the small steps and look at the big steps, what the county could do economically if broadband weren’t an issue.”