Access Sonoma Broadband

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Overview

It has become impossible to lead one’s life, or conduct one’s business without adequate broadband access. Throughout the world broadband is becoming recognized not as a luxury, but instead - a necessity.  

Unfortunately, rural communities across the nation face economic disenfranchisement and failed economies due to inadequate broadband access. To address this challenge, the Sonoma County Economic Development Board has formed Access Sonoma Broadband (ASB) to work with communities to close the digital divide.

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Mission

The mission of Access Sonoma Broadband is to help connect Sonoma County's unserved communities to fast, affordable, and reliable internet services.

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Services

  • Facilitate broadband availability by identifying unserved communities most in need, conducting community outreach, and connecting them with internet providers and funding solutions if needed.
  • Promote broadband adoption by assisting non-profits and other eligible organizations create or expand broadband access centers, or digital literacy and other technical training services, by connecting with local and state stakeholders as well as funding opportunities
  • Advocate for rural broadband needs at the regional, state and federal level.
  • Research broadband related topics and issues.

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Digital Divide in Sonoma County

Communities

As technology evolves and our demand for internet bandwidth increases, existing broadband infrastructure has become out dated in many low density communities and is not able to support their current demand for bandwidth. Fortunately, there are state and federal grant programs that fund broadband infrastructure deployment in unserved communities that do not have access to high speed internet, defined in California as services capable of providing a minimum speed threshold of 6 megabits per second download and 1 megabit per second upload. To see if you may qualify for funding opportunities, please run a speed test at: https://www.speedtest.net/.

You may also visit the California Interactive Broadband Map to view the current status of connectivity throughout California that identifies areas that may be eligible for grant funding. https://www.broadbandmap.ca.gov/

Education

It is imperative that students have access to fast, reliable, and affordable internet services and technology in order to complete school assignments remotely at home and at school. The Sonoma County Office of Education works diligently to ensure all schools districts have access to high speed internet. These efforts involve partnerships with internet service providers and with Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC). For more information on current connectivity throughout Sonoma County’s school districts, please visit: https://datalink.k12hsn.org/listing/49

Communication

Reliable communication is absolutely necessary for individuals to stay alert of emergencies in Sonoma County. Sonoma County staff proactively work with cellular providers on improving cellular service throughout the County, exploring opportunities to deploy infrastructure in areas lacking cellular coverage, upgrade antiquated and failing landline systems, and create overall redundancy in our networks to ensure communities have access to reliable and resilient communications during emergencies and natural disasters. To view current cellular coverage in your community, please access the following links to view providers’ cellular coverage throughout Sonoma County:
AT&T: https://www.att.com/maps/wireless-coverage.html
Verizon Wireless: https://www.verizonwireless.com/reusable-content/landing-page/
T-Mobile: https://maps.t-mobile.com/pcc.html?map=mvno-noroam-34l

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Current Efforts

Broadband Projects


Municipal Broadband Business Plan

In June 2020, the Sonoma County Economic Development Board kick started a project with a nationally recognized broadband consultant called Magellan Advisors to create a Municipal Broadband Business Plan. The plan will provide solutions for Sonoma County, cities, and other municipalities to finance, build, own, and manage broadband infrastructure. The intention of this project is to support public entities with the necessary resources to pursue broadband infrastructure grants in order to foster greater competition in the region and expand broadband services into unserved areas. 


North Bay North Coast Broadband Consortium

In 2007, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) authorized the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to provide grants to bridge the “digital divide” in unserved and underserved areas of the state. In 2010, CASF was expanded into three accounts, and one of those accounts became the “Rural and Urban Regional Broadband Consortia Account” whose intended purpose, pursuant to AB 1665, is to facilitate the deployment of broadband services by assisting infrastructure grant applicants in the project development or grant application process. More information about the CASF grant program and these regional consortiums can be found on the CPUC website.

In 2014, the North Bay North Coast Broadband Consortium received grant funding from the Rural and Urban Regional Broadband Consortia Account to create a 4 member county broadband consortium in partnership with Mendocino, Marin, Napa, and Sonoma counties. NBNCBC still remains operational today and its current efforts focus on assisting internet service providers apply to broadband infrastructure grant programs for deployment projects in unserved areas, as well as advocacy for broadband related legislation. There are several reasons why we believe participating in a regional consortium is beneficial:

  • The rural areas of all four counties have a great deal in common: low population density, agriculture, tourism, geographical challenges to broadband deployment, and the resulting urban/rural digital divide
  • Broadband connectivity does not stop at county lines, and coordinating county planning reduces capital expenses to deploy broadband.
  • Regional broadband deployment also encourages network redundancy and improves reliability, which reduces broadband outages due to network damage.
  • Regional cooperation also reduces costs to any one county by a sharing of resources, (such as GIS mapping, expertise, and information) and developing regional projects.

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How You Can Help

The California Public Utilities Commission maintains the State Broadband Coverage Map which identifies coverage areas. Currently this data is self-reported by carriers to the Federal Communication Commission’s Form 477 which has been determined to misrepresent the actual availability of broadband through the United States.  By verifying the actual services available at your home or in your community, you will be confirming or refuting carrier supplied information and helping the CPUC provide a more accurate description of coverage in California. This confirmation process is known as ground proofing and allows communities to pursue broadband infrastructure grant funding if determined unserved and eligible.

Take the CPUC Broadband Survey

The information you provide by completing the survey will be incorporated into the consumer feedback layer, and be used to validate or invalidate provider's service availability information. 

The CPUC has two ways for you to provide survey feedback data:

  1. Mail-in the paper survey: Simply complete, sign, and mail via US Mail to the address at the bottom of the survey. 
  2. Take the online survey: You can complete this survey from any place with internet service if you don't have service at your house 
    • Click on the " Interactive Broadband Map"
    • Select the House icon, at the top on the right side of the map. This is the "Address Lookup" tool.
    • Enter your physical address, city, state and zip code, and click "Locate"
    • A box with service providers in your area appears, and directly above it you will see the link 'Send Feedback.' Click this link and the survey will appear on your screen. Answer the questions and submit the survey. 

Download CalSPEED

You can download the CalSPEED mobile testing app and test the quality of the service available at your location at that moment. Tests done in areas with no service will be reported to the CPUC automatically the next time you enter an area with service. If you have some service available, testing must be done while connected to your Wi-Fi or mobile data at home. Please feel free to use the app frequently, at a variety of locations outside of your home as well.

Write to the CPUC

The California Public Utilities Commission welcomes your comments.  Please send your correspondence to CPUC Broadband Feedback or:

California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco CA 94102

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Contact Information

Calvin Sandeen

Broadband Project Coordinator

Economic Development Board

Business Hours
Monday – Friday
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Contact us by Phone
Address
141 Stony Circle, Suite 130
Santa Rosa, CA 95401