Caged In

Santa Barbara sorely needs broadband competition. We’re on the cusp of being a tech hub, with companies like QAD, Citrix, Ontraport, and Sonos already calling our community home, but the lack of meaningful options when it comes to high-speed Internet providers is holding Santa Barbara back.

Just this week I received an email from Santa Barbara’s sole broadband internet service provider (ISP), Cox Cable, informing me that the company has added a one-terabyte cap to my high-speed account, and will charge me $10 per 50 gigabytes thereafter. As a small-business owner and contractor, I’m already paying for the top-tier Cox package, and with no other game in town, I’m forced to take it on the chin. I’m nearly hitting this cap as it is, and I can only imagine how this policy will affect businesses with higher bandwidth usage than my own.

The solution is to lower the barriers in Santa Barbara for other ISPs to enter the marketplace. This can be done a number of ways — giving tax breaks to other providers, like Google Fiber or Verizon Fios, or by removing pre-deployment obstacles on a civil government level (access to pole attachments, bureaucratic public works contracts, etc.) Better yet, Santa Barbara can push through a municipal fiber project and build out broadband infrastructure for ourselves, as the city of Santa Cruz did in partnership with Cruzio.

Having more broadband options means customers have a say in the pricing, policies, and services ISPs provide. By defeating Cox Cable’s monopoly on our community, we will get cheaper and faster internet services and pave the way for more tech-focused business. That means more and better jobs, a higher quality of life, and a greater degree of choice and autonomy for Santa Barbara residents.

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