Santa Cruz County supervisors look at fiber plan, consider options to move ahead

12 February 2015 by Steve Blum
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On Tuesday, Santa Cruz County supervisors took a look at the broadband development plan that I previewed a couple of days ago. It sketched out a possible core fiber network in five key unincorporated areas of the county that have been identified as economic development priorities, as well as providing additional support for the broadband infrastructure policy initiatives that are already underway.

“Infrastructure is already inadequate and it’s being pulled back”, Peggy Dolgenos, CEO of Cruzio, a local independent ISP, told supervisors after the presentation. It’s a drag on the local economy, not in terms of attracting new businesses, but also “the survival the ones that are here”.

No action was taken on the prospective plan, except to ask county staff to come back next month with recommendations for next steps. Even that was controversial, though, with Watsonville area supervisor Greg Caput voting against it, as he has opposed previous efforts to shake up the status quo and put competitive pressure on big incumbent providers, particularly AT&T, Comcast and Charter. Representatives from Comcast and Charter were at the meeting but didn’t say anything about the proposal. At least not publicly.

If supervisors want to get directly involved in building a fiber network, one of the first questions they’ll have to answer is whether the county would do it on its own – build, own and operate the system – or give the job to an independent, non-commercial organisation. “Taking on that liability, taking on that cost is a difficult thing to do”, said Aptos area supervisor Zach Friend, who said the county should be open to partnering with others – an agency or non-profit group – to get it done.