Brenda Gillarde
Brenda Gillarde
Senior Planner

Bridging the Digital Divide

Can’t get on-line? Slow connection? Help is on the way! Central Sierra Connect (CSC), a consortium of influential local leaders, is working to expand broadband throughout the Sierra Foothills. At a recent one-day symposium held in Tuolumne City at the Black Oak Conference Center it was made clear just how many layers of the challenge of bridging the digital divide in rural areas exist. It also crystallized how critical closing the digital gap is to economic prosperity for the Sierra Nevada region.

COMM BG Blog Broadband Image 2014 07Region-wide access to quality broadband affects multiple sectors of life in the Sierra Foothills that together create the necessary foundation for thriving communities. It’s essential for education (on-line courses); telecommuting (expands local workforce); health care (electronic files/instant transfer of information); Geotourism (www.sierranevadageotourism.org)(on-line reservations, web access to local restaurants, shops, etc.); and at home activities (entertainment, on-line banking, bill pay, shopping, etc.).

One of the largest challenges involves the effort to access more of the financial pie available to rural counties for broadband. At the federal level, (where the dollars originate), very little of California is considered rural when actually 44 out of 58 counties meet the definition per the California Center for Rural Policy. Because of this disconnect rural counties get far less of the financial pie than they should.

Here’s what you can do to help:

1) Provide data to the mapping project. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has a broadband map that identifies broadband coverage statewide. The map guides where additional broadband is needed and how funding should be allocated. However, the map does not accurately reflect broadband access and speeds in the Sierra Nevada. Help make it accurate! Go to: http://bit.ly/cscmapping and follow the directions. Then click ‘Submit’ at the bottom of the Internet Service Reporting Form. It will take less than 5 minutes…honest! There’s even an added incentive…CSC is running a contest and awarding DAILY prizes to those who submit a completed form! Click here to find out more!

2) Lobby your local legislators to enact measures that strengthen and expand broadband in your community. Santa Cruz County is an innovative model now used by the California Governor’s office. They created a map targeting future broadband expansion, streamlined the permit process, created a master lease agreement and require new development to install fiber optics.

Be part of the solution and take these two simple actions to expand broadband in your local community! Coming together is a beginning…working together is success.