For Immediate Release
Sonoma County approves Open Access Broadband Network to ensure accessibility, affordability for unserved residents
Santa Rosa, CA | August 01, 2023
The Board of Supervisors today approved an agreement between the County of Sonoma and Golden State Connect Authority to move forward with broadband internet infrastructure expansion with an emphasis on providing service to unserved and underserved areas of unincorporated Sonoma County.
In addition to the agreement with Golden State Connect Authority, the Board of Supervisors approved $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to enable completion of detailed design planning for more than 200 miles of open access broadband infrastructure in the following priority areas:
- Jenner – 4.87 miles
- East Santa Rosa – 24.96 miles
- Walsh Landing – 12.18 miles
- East Cloverdale / Preston – 44.42 miles
- West Cloverdale – 41.75 miles
- Mark West / Shiloh – 49.24 miles
- Annapolis – 36.18 miles
The above priority areas are shovel-ready locations that connect to the state’s planned phase one middle-mile projects on Highways 1 and 101, which were identified based on median household income, population density, construction feasibility and other factors of the unserved location.
“Reliable broadband internet has become essential to carrying out the demands of modern life and business,” said Supervisor Chris Coursey, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “For too long, unincorporated areas of Sonoma County have experienced inadequate access to the internet. Today’s action lifts up these communities by taking a decisive step toward closing the internet availability gap.”
Golden State Connect is a regional Joint Powers Authority governed by elected officials from 40 rural California counties to facilitate the development of public broadband infrastructure using state and federal funding, including California Senate Bill 156, the American Rescue Plan Act, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Sonoma County joined Golden State Connect Authority in 2021 in alignment with the Resilient Infrastructure pillar of its Five-Year Strategic Plan.
The open access network model is intended to lower costs for internet providers to enter the market, creating a competitive environment that supports quality services at affordable prices. The agreement with Golden State Connect Authority does not preclude the county from working directly with internet service providers in the future to build out the county’s broadband infrastructure.
Under the agreement, Golden State Connect Authority is the primary entity responsible for delivering rural broadband in Sonoma County with rights to install and maintain infrastructure on county-owned property, including the public right-of-way along existing streets and roadways. The agreement includes provisions normally required for all right-of-way encroachments.
In 2022, the county earned a $500,000 Local Agency Technical Assistance grant from the California Public Utilities Commission in support of network design for approximately 46 miles of broadband infrastructure in priority areas. Today’s allocation allows for design planning for an additional 159 miles. Phase two of the action plan will focus on broadband installation in priority areas including Duncans Mills, Boyes Hot Springs, Occidental and surrounding areas.
Board materials related to the Sonoma County Broadband Infrastructure item are available here:
Aleena Decker, Conference & Communications Coordinator
Economic Development Board, County of Sonoma