California is facing a digital crisis, with far too many residents left without adequate and affordable broadband service. The COVID-19 crisis has brought lack of internet service to the forefront due to the necessity of distance learning and remote working, tele-healthcare and remote access to employment, economic and human services.
Since the launch of our Broadband initiative in 2015, we have been working with our members and partners to explore how we can facilitate high-speed broadband coverage for all residents in the Monterey Bay region. MBEP works closely with the Central Coast Broadband Consortium on our broadband initiative, and we are in constant contact with the Governor’s office and the CPUC to advocate for coverage in our region. MBEP is uniquely positioned as a convener in the region to bring the city and county governments, County Offices of Education, and ISPs together to take action and improve broadband coverage.
What we have accomplished
Convened regional leaders to establish a new broadband standard
100 MBPS Download
20 MBPS Upload
Supported the application for CASF Funding for
4 high-speed internet infrastructure projects in the region
10 “Dig-Once” Opportunities
Identifed and discussed with local agencies
Regularly assisting 7 ISPS in the Monterey Bay region
With projects for unserved areas
***Support the Equal Access Monterey Bay campaign***
MBEP is looking for seed funding for Equal Access Monterey Bay. We have established a designated agency fund at the Community Foundation for Monterey County, and will act as the fiscal agent for Equal Access projects in low-income areas. Projects will be funded through a combination of ISP expenditures, private and corporate donors, and state and federal grants.
Contact Freny Cooper to learn more and get involved.
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Equal Access Monterey Bay
The goal for the State of California is 98% broadband coverage. Here in our region, our goal is 100% coverage at our regional standard of 100 Mbps download / 20 Mbps upload. To accomplish this goal, it’s been necessary to create new ways of doing business in broadband.
MBEP has recently launched a new effort to implement long-term solutions to provide broadband access for all residents of the Monterey Bay region: Equal Access Monterey Bay.
This effort is modeled after the success of Equal Access Santa Cruz, a partnership between Cruzio Internet, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, and the Santa Cruz County Office of Education that provides low-income families in need of reliable and affordable broadband for communities that cannot afford infrastructure.
The first Equal Access Santa Cruz project was completed in March 2021 at the Buena Vista Migrant Center in Watsonville. Nearly 150 units will be wired with premium internet service (100 Mbps download and upload) at no cost to the residents for the first two years!
MBEP, in partnership with the Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC), collaborates with local governments, County Offices of Education, school districts, and residents to identify projects that may be eligible for Equal Access. We then work with ISPs in our region to define an infrastructure plan for those locations, whether it be fiber, wireless, or other technologies. For very low-income communities, we will supplement the buildout costs and service costs with philanthropic funds housed at the Community Foundation for Monterey County. To donate to our Equal Access fund, please contact Freny Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In San Benito County, MBEP is partnering with our member and local ISP – South Valley Internet. South Valley Internet is creating a nonprofit to replicate the Equal Access model, and they are naming their initiative Balanced Access.
Equal Access Monterey Bay Outcomes:
☑ New infrastructure (wireless, fiber, and other) in unserved areas
☑ Projects that are financially feasible for ISPs
☑ Additional coverage to hundreds of residents for each project
☑ Free to low-cost service for those who need it
Broadband Success Stories
Equal Access Santa Cruz County
Fundraising Campaign Brings Community Together to Close the Equity Gap
Independent ISP Cruzio Internet has been addressing the need for essential digital infrastructure in the Santa Cruz community since its launch in 1989, and the pandemic has increased the urgency around connectivity needs, said James Hackett, Director of Business Operations for Cruzio Internet. “First COVID, and now the fires, have really shone a light on the problem. Read more
Bringing Free Broadband to the San Jerardo Co-op.
If all goes according to plan, the roughly 250 full-time residents of the San Jerardo farmworkers co-op in Salinas may soon have free broadband internet access. That’s a goal of Equal Access Monterey Bay, an initiative of the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership. Together with the Santa Cruz-based internet service provider Cruzio Internet, MBEP is hoping to replicate a project done in Watsonville where Cruzio, the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County and the Santa Cruz County Office of Education brought free internet access to the 140 residences at the Buena Vista Migrant Center.Read more
Gonzales Attains ‘Internet for All’
Having a Plan Has Made All the Difference to the Success of City’s Broadband Initiative
Before COVID-19, MBEP member City of Gonzales was already on track to distribute high-speed internet hotspots to its residents. So while the city’s original plan was to distribute the devices at a Community Summit to launch its “Internet for All” initiative, city officials rapidly regrouped, organizing a series of drive-through events where residents were able to quickly and safely pick up their hotspot devices. The 4G LTE WiFi hotspots provide unlimited, high-speed internet access and can support up to 12 connections at once. Read more
Connecting Rural Students
Committee Creates Internet Solutions for Underserved Student Populations
Stretched across approximately 100 miles of western San Benito County, northern Monterey County, and eastern Santa Cruz County, the Aromas-San Juan Unified School District includes several regions where the internet is sketchy at best and, in some cases, nonexistent. So when most California schools shut down for in-person learning last March, more than 100 students suddenly found themselves with no feasible way to participate in distance learning. For those students, the challenge was one that a district Chromebook or a low-cost internet service plan couldn’t fix.
Members of a local service club stepped up to make a difference. Read more
In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, we realize that broadband is more critical than ever. Click here for a list of resources in our region for free or low-cost internet service.
Free Hotspots in the City of Gonzales
The City of Gonzales is organizing drive-through events for residents to pick up hotspot devices. They have a total of 2,000 4G LTE WiFi hotspots to distribute that provide unlimited high-speed access and support up to 12 concurrent connections at no cost. You must have proof of residence in the City of Gonzales to qualify.
Updates can be found on their Facebook page.
Broadband Position Paper
Click here for a list of our recommendations to policy makers that will expand the coverage of high-speed internet in our region.
Get up-to-date information on tech resources in the region.
Offers technical support to the community on a volunteer basis during this time of crisis.