As part of a larger nationwide and statewide effort to increase broadband availability — spurred in part by the prevalence of remote work and increased internet activity in households during the pandemic — the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) is working to expand the region’s broadband service through the Broadband Strategic Plan.
On Tuesday, City Council heard the latest on these plans, which is a collaborative effort between Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties through the Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast (BCPC). It is in response to state legislation and the California Broadband for All initiative, which aims to “close the digital divide” by expanding high-speed internet access statewide.
“It’s not that broadband hasn’t been discussed for the last decade-plus, but conductivity became a big issue when COVID daylighted it,” said Broadband Strategic Plan project coordinator Maria Kelly. She joined project team members Michael Becker, Bill Simmons, and Sasha Burrows in coordinating the local efforts, which she said is the beginning of a long road to full broadband availability.
SBCAG is on an “aggressive timeline,” she says, to analyze our current needs through surveys and “speed tests” in order to fully develop the plan by year’s end. Each of the cities in the three counties has pitched in funding through federal COVID relief funds; Santa Barbara agreed to use $60,460 from its American Rescue Plan Act funds.
“By the end of the year, Santa Barbara communities will better understand the regional needs of broadband internet infrastructure for residents and businesses,” reads the SBCAG website.