Calaveras County is participating in a five-county collaborative effort to bring high-speed Internet access to rural communities in the central Sierras, Calaveras County Economic and Community Development Director Kathy Gallino said in a press release on December 14.
The five counties affected are Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolomne and Mariposa, which are mostly made up of rural areas that tend not to have access to reliable, affordable and affordable high-speed internet. Together, the five counties will employ a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to provide public services to residents, where previously options were limited or non-existent.
Gallino told the Enterprise, “We find that if the rural counties come together, we have a lot more power. … People are listening to us.
Initial plans are underway, with broadband company NEO Connect hired to develop the broadband roadmap.
The goal of the Central Sierra Broadband roadmap will focus on identifying gaps in broadband service, setting priorities and matching funding opportunities with those priorities to accelerate investments in broadband. broadband infrastructure, “according to the press release.
Gallino worked on getting funding through grants, saying, “There’s a lot of money out there, we just need to focus. The first step, according to Gallino, is the roadmap.
The roadmap will identify and compile information on what infrastructure already exists and where it is, according to Gallino. It will also provide processes and tools to “facilitate improvement of services” already available in the region, such as Volcano or Xfinity.
Through this collaborative process, Calaveras and neighboring counties will be able to work towards the state’s goal of “bridging the digital divide” by providing high-speed Internet access (download speed of 100 Mbps or more) to students and to homes across the state. The roadmap aims to develop the infrastructure to achieve this objective.
Having reliable and fast internet access is more important than ever, with more distance learning students and people working from home. Even doctor’s appointments have been put online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who do not have reliable internet access are at a considerable disadvantage, further compounding the problems already faced by residents of rural and low-income communities.
“Not only is it necessary for our families, but it is necessary for our businesses. You must be able to do business online. You need to have reliable and affordable connectivity, ”said Gallino. This is a persistent problem in Calaveras County.
“One of the things we find, the huge economic gaps that we have in secure broadband, especially in our higher country … the region of Arnold all the way to Alpine County … the corridor 26 towards West Point … “, Gallino explained.
Working with NEO Connect is the first step towards a solution, besides getting funding. Fortunately, in July of this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law for a $ 6 billion investment that provides funds for the expansion of broadband infrastructure in underserved areas. Through this plan, Calaveras County and others across the state will be able to use a state-owned open-access intermediate network to connect local networks and will have access to funds that bring these networks to homes and homes. companies.
NEO Connect is conducting a survey as part of the Central Sierra Broadband Roadmap, in partnership with the Young Leaders Advisory Council of California Forward.
“California Forward is a state-wide, policy-based nonprofit organization committed to improving government and creating inclusive and sustainable growth for all in various regions of the state,” Gallino said.
The objective of the council will be to determine the effects of limited broadband access on students and the elderly, and also to carry out outreach activities among tribal communities in the region.
NEO will work to identify and map existing telecommunications infrastructure (such as fiber optic cables) and then create a plan to close the coverage gaps.