Santa Cruz Tech Ecosystem
Rising hopes for turbocharging Salinas Valley economy with fiber to Santa Cruz
by Steve Blum
Tellus Venture Associates
A dark fiber link between Santa Cruz and broadband-deprived areas of the Salinas Valley is closer to becoming a reality, albeit with one major hurdle left to clear. The California Public Utilities Commission has issued a proposed decision that would approve paying for most of the cost with a grant from the California Advanced Services Fund. CASF is a pot of money that’s collected via a small surcharge on Californians’ phone bills (currently less than two-tenths of a percent, but probably increasing to half a percent) in order to subsidise broadband infrastructure in poorly served areas of the state.
The 91-mile fiber optic “middle mile” network would run from Santa Cruz to Soledad and would be built and operated by Sunesys, LLC. It’s the same company that built the fiber route that connects Santa Cruz – particularly local Internet service provider Cruzio and UCSC – to relatively inexpensive and reliable Internet bandwidth in Silicon Valley. Which in turn has helped to fuel a tech boom here. This new project would extend those benefits to economically depressed communities in the Salinas Valley where broadband service is either completely lacking or doesn’t meet the CPUC’s minimum standard of 6 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload speeds.
Two related “last mile” systems – in the Monterey Dunes and Paradise Road areas at the mouth of the Salinas Valley – have already been proposed by Surfnet Communications, another Santa Cruz County ISP, and are also up for approval by the commission.
There’s one big problem, though: under current CPUC rules, only $7.4 million of the project’s $13.3 million total (55%) is eligible for grant funding. However, Sunesys – supported by a broad coalition of local governments and community organisations in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties – is asking for $11 million (83%). An effort, led by the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, is underway to rally support for going above the limit. The commission is scheduled to make a decision on the project next month.
Sara Isenberg curates and publishes Santa Cruz Tech Beat for the benefit of the extended business and technology community. When she is not volunteering her time for the tech scene, Sara makes her living by managing software projects, web strategy planning, and providing development team services (including account management, vendor management, strategic partner management, beta project management, referrals to qualified technical team members, and more). Please visit her website: Sara Isenberg Web Consulting & Project Management, or contact Sara by email if you have any project management, account management, or Development Team leadership or service needs.