Transforming the East Bay with a 21st century broadband infrastructure

1 November 2013 by Steve Blum
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Would you allow it?

“We just cannot do this without the right infrastructure and we’ll just have to go elsewhere. We don’t want to go elsewhere, but it is what it is,” said K.G. Charles-Harris, CEO of Emanio, a Berkeley-based business intelligence company that needs two things: fat broadband pipes and the talent it attracts. “As a business guy what’s important is to invest and grow, and to invest and grow you need people.”

He was speaking at an East Bay Economic Development Alliance meeting in Pleasanton, California on Wednesday, as a regional plan for broadband infrastructure development was presented by Sunne Wright McPeak, CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund.

“The vision is to go from five megabits, which is the average download speed, to a hundred”, she said. “It increases economic competitiveness, it improves health and safety.”

Developed by the East Bay Broadband Consortium, the plan calls growing the availability of 4G mobile broadband, building broadband infrastructure ahead of demand rather than scrambling to meet it, and fostering better cooperation “between broadband providers and communities they serve”.

The meeting drew elected officials and economic development professionals from across the region. One step they were all asked to take was to ask their communities to sign a “Let’s Get Fast” pledge developed by EBBC that provides a common base of support for the plan, while allowing for a wide range of different priorities and approaches.

A broadband infrastructure report card, developed by Tellus Venture Associates for the EBBC, provided much of the basis for the plan and recommendations. Covering Contra Costa, Alameda and Solano counties on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay, the report graded the residential broadband service and underlying infrastructure on a city by city basis.

“What do you mostly see? Middle of the pack. That’s not going to support employers,” McPeak said. “Is a ‘C’ what your parents would have allowed you to bring home on your report card? Is it what you would allow your children to do?”