Equal Access Monterey Bay Campaign:

Connecting the San Jerardo Housing Cooperative is Just the First Step

Since last fall, when the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) awarded Cruzio Internet a $292,548 grant from the California Advanced Services Fund Line Extension Program to build internet infrastructure for the San Jerardo Housing Cooperative, Cruzio has been gearing up for the buildout, working to finalize all of the many behind-the-scenes “bits and pieces that need to happen” — as Cruzio Director of Business Operations & Development James Hackett describes it — in order to bring affordable, accessible connectivity to the farmworker housing co-op. That includes finalizing agreements with the County of Monterey, working with a vendor to build and splice fiber, and making various arrangements with other wireless partners. The actual infrastructure build could start as early as next month and is expected to take several weeks, says Hackett. When that work is completed, using a combination of fiber-optic and fixed wireless technologies to tap into the middle-mile fiber line stretching from Santa Cruz to Soledad, it will provide service at 100 Mbps speeds (download and upload) to 250 permanent and 100 seasonal San Jerardo residents.

But bringing reliable connectivity to the rural agricultural community a few miles outside of Salinas is just the first step: If residents can’t afford monthly broadband service — at $75, or $100, or even a steeply discounted rate — infrastructure alone won’t bridge the digital divide. 

That’s why MBEP, in collaboration with Cruzio, the County of Monterey, the Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC), and other community partners, is working to raise $200,000 to provide free service to all the residents of the San Jerardo Housing Cooperative for the next five years.

Making sure those households not only have high-speed broadband connectivity but that residents can also access that internet service regardless of income or socioeconomic status is the goal of Equal Access Monterey Bay, modeled after a similar initiative in Santa Cruz County spearheaded by Cruzio that successfully addressed some of the biggest barriers to reliable, affordable broadband in underserved areas. Launched in 2020, Equal Access Santa Cruz County brought reliable, high-speed internet connectivity to hundreds of families across Santa Cruz County, including 140 residences at the Buena Vista Migrant Center in Watsonville at no cost for the first three years.

To donate to the Equal Access Monterey Bay fund, visit the Community Foundation for Monterey County or contact Freny Cooper at fcooper@mbep.biz.