Sometimes called the “fourth utility”, broadband is critical 21st Century infrastructure, and the growth, effectiveness and innovation in Northern Santa Barbara County are not able to be maximized due to the area’s broadband limitations.
Fall 2022: EconAlliance and grant co-awardee Santa Ynez Band of Chumash began work on their joint U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to develop, evaluate and cost-out two alternative broadband routes for the Northern Santa Barbara County Fiber Ring, with grant project to be aligned with the Santa Barbara County Broadband Strategy developed by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments with the support of the Broadband Consortium Pacific Coast (see below). The EconAlliance/Chumash EDA project will also align with the State’s “Broadband for All” (https://broadbandforall.cdt.ca.gov/) and Middle-Mile Initiative (https://broadbandforall.cdt.ca.gov/middle-mile-broadband-initiative/)
EconAlliance was a partner in the Santa Barbara County Broadband Alliance led by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), with partners the Broadband Consortium Pacific Coast (Consortium), EconAlliance, REACH, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash, and others. In spring of 2022, EconAlliance coordinated ten public meetings around the County to garner inputs for the Santa Barbara County Broadband Strategy (www.sbcag.org/broadband) developed by SBCAG and the Consortium.
Pacific Premier Bank funded EconAlliance with a 2021-2022 $25,000 grant to fund an assessment of broadband needs for organizations and residents in Cuyama, Los Alamos and Orcutt, along with identifying anchor institutions in those communities. 2021-2022 funding is a follow-on effort of a previous grant awarded EconAlliance by the Bank for a similar study of Santa Maria, Guadalupe, and Lompoc, which is a study still underway. In addition, the bank’s grant partially funds EconAlliance in engaging and overseeing telecom consultants to perform a “Last Mile Connectivity Analysis” for Northern Santa Barbara County. EconAlliance is partnering with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians on this element of the grant work, and Tribal funding will be supporting funding for the Analysis. “Last Mile” element provides critical analysis supporting community decision-making, helping communities to better understand technology options, cost and viability of last mile connectivity. See full press release here.
Advocacy and other efforts supporting accelerated development of the Northern Santa Barbara County Fiber Ring Network, a middle-mile infrastructure element envisioned as enhancing broadband access for North County communities, industries, anchor institutions and key assets. EconAlliance is supporting partnerships, exploring funding potential, writing and co-writing grants, and socializing the Fiber Ring concept. Part of this effort involves developing and maintaining a preliminary broadband strategy for North County.
Supporting Vandenberg IT team’s broadband enhancement. In March, 2021, Vandenberg Air Force Base changed its name to Vandenberg Space Force Base, setting the stage for the Base’s new vision as a “Spaceport of the Future”. To foster spaceport readiness, a major upgrade in connectivity was required and in 2020, EconAlliance and BCPC assisted the Base IT team with market research around broadband improvements – hosting a broadband provider/Base IT team “meet and greet”, and identifying potential providers to meet Vandenberg’s unique needs.
In 2020, EconAlliance, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash and BCPC co-wrote a successful tribal grant to the US Department of the Interior to develop a Tribal broadband strategy for linking traditional Chumash lands to new Trust lands. Partners are now implementing.
In 2021, EconAlliance is beginning a broadband needs assessment for North County. Pacific Premier Bank is supporting this important effort with partial funding of the assessment.
A recent analysis of statewide broadband (“California Broadband Infrastructure Report Card”, March 2020, Tellus Venture Association gave Santa Barbara County a D-, meaning that there is only one wireline provider offering (not necessarily even in all areas) broadband speeds of 100 Mbps down/20 Mbps up. More recent figures may show some slight improvement, but the fact is that in 2021, there are still areas either un-served or severely under-served by broadband.