Urban or rural, the need for broadband speed is the same for all in the Monterey Bay region
By Steve Blum
Tellus Venture Associates
Special to Santa Cruz Tech Beat
December 3, 2018 — Seaside, CA
To run a business, do homework and enjoy the benefits of our digital economy, broadband service that runs at 100 Mbps download/20 Mbps upload speeds is a necessity for everyone. That’s the conclusion of a year-long study by the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) and the Central Coast Broadband Consortium.
The report was presented on Friday at MBEP’s 2018 State of the Region event in Seaside. It was based on the work of the broadband leadership team recommended by participants at the 2017 conference and recruited by MBEP earlier this year. The team conducted a survey of residents and businesses in Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties.
The key finding is that broadband needs are the same whether people live or work in a well-served urban area or a poorly – or even unserved – rural community.
The result was unexpected. The study’s underlying hypothesis was that the region’s diverse economy and communities would have an equally diverse range of broadband needs. As it turned out, there was little difference in the responses from high tech, agricultural or home-based business sectors, or from consumers anywhere.
In retrospect, the findings made perfect sense: a rancher in Bitterwater uses the same cloud-based business tools as a game developer in Santa Cruz, their families watch the same video programs, and their kids do the same homework and take the same online tests.
Federal and state broadband standards do not meet that need. Broadband subsidy programs run by the federal government set 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps speeds up as a minimum, although providers who deliver significantly slower service in rural areas can still receive funding. California’s primary broadband subsidy program, the California Advanced Services Fund, considers speeds as low as 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up to be sufficient for urban and rural communities alike.
Businesses and households in the Monterey Bay region are also willing to pay for better service…
When asked about ideal download and upload speeds, 63% of business respondents stated they would like to have 100 Mbps or higher download and 61% stated they would like to have 25 Mbps or higher upload. 69% of these businesses said they would be willing to pay $70 or more per month.
50% of respondents in the consumer survey stated that they would like to have download speeds of 100 Mbps or more. 66% of consumers said they were willing to pay $40 to $99 a month for their ideal speeds.
The MBEP survey data was backed up by a separate broadband needs survey run by the County of Santa Cruz and quarterbacked by broadband leadership team member Zach Friend, who is a Santa Cruz County supervisor.
The question addressed at this year’s conference was how do we achieve the goal of making 100 Mbps down/20 Mbps up broadband service ubiquitous in the region? Participants, who represented local governments, Internet service providers, businesses and non-profit organizations, identified better access to capital, greater public-private cooperation and proactive local broadband development policies as the team’s 2019 objectives.
Monterey Bay Region Broadband Leadership Team
- Ray Corpuz, City of Salinas
- Peggy Dolgenos, Cruzio
- John Freeman, City of San Juan Bautista
- Zach Friend, County of Santa Cruz
- Chris Frost, Cruzio
- James Hackett, Cruzio
- Matt Huffaker, City of Watsonville
- Mary Ann Leffel, MCBC
- Chip Lenno, CSUMB
- Maureen McCarty, Assemblymember Mark Stone’s office
- René Mendez, City of Gonzales
- Andy Myrick, City of Salinas
- Larry Samuels, CSUMB
- Brad Smith, UCSC
- Jim Warner, UCSC
- Steve Blum, Tellus Venture Associates
- Freny Cooper, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership
- Kate Roberts, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership