In 2007, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) authorized the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to provide grants to bridge the “digital divide” in unserved and underserved areas of the state. In 2010, the CASF was expanded into three accounts, and one of those accounts became the “Rural and Urban Regional Broadband Consortia Account” whose intended purpose is to fund activities other than capital expenses, such as promoting broadband access and adoption. There are currently fourteen such consortiums throughout the state, incorporating anywhere from a single county (Los Angeles County) to eight counties (San Joaquin Valley). More information about the CASF grant program and these regional consortiums can be found on the CPUC website.
The North Bay/North Coast Broadband Consortium (NBNCBC) is a grant application to CASF, requesting $445,947 in a 3-year grant for the formation of a new consortium that would commence in 2015 and include the counties of Mendocino, Sonoma, Marin, and Napa. Funds would be spent to survey current broadband availability, and to stimulate improved broadband deployment and adoption throughout each county. Since the four counties form an economic and cultural region, programs to improve broadband adoption can be replicated and customized for each county.
The Need for the Consortium
There are several reasons why we believe participating in a regional consortium is beneficial to Mendocino County:
- The rural areas of all four counties have a great deal in common: low population density, agriculture, tourism, geographical challenges to broadband deployment, and the resulting urban/rural digital divide.
- Broadband connectivity does not stop at county lines, and coordinating county planning reduces capital expenses to deploy broadband.
- Regional broadband deployment also encourages network redundancy and improves reliability, which reduces broadband outages due to network damage.
- Regional cooperation also reduces costs to any one county by a sharing of resources, (such as GIS mapping, expertise, and information) and developing regional projects.
The application Executive Summary, found on pages five through eight, goes into further detail of the need for this consortium – the problem and the solution that the NBNCBC can provide, along with an overview of the proposed project.