Monterey, Santa Cruz Counties Finalizing Plans for Stimulus-Funded Broadband Connectivity Upgrades

Federal stimulus funds are increasing broadband access in the Monterey Bay region, with $2.4 million worth of investment from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) fueling connectivity upgrades in unserved and underserved parts of Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

By the end of the year, a partnership between Santa Cruz County and Cruzio Internet will bring low- and no-cost internet access to 4,000 additional homes in Santa Cruz County. Early last month, the county announced a $500,000 grant funded by ARPA dollars to the locally owned internet service provider, which will provide up to 150 percent matching funds, for a total of $1,250,000 toward increased broadband access. 

The grant will allow for the expansion of the Equal Access Santa Cruz program, a collaboration between Cruzio, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, MBEP, and other local organizations. Since its launch in 2020, Equal Access Santa Cruz has brought expanded high-speed broadband access to more than 700 students and households in underserved and unserved areas of the county.

“Reliable, affordable internet access is a basic right. We are committed to addressing digital inequality in our community and ensuring that all households have the internet access they need for work, school, healthcare, and more,” Supervisor Zach Friend said.

The funds will be used to install 20 new antennae to improve broadband signal in rural areas. The county is currently evaluating potential service sites where rooftop antennas could be placed.

In Monterey County, $1.9 million in ARPA funding will go toward providing high-speed internet connectivity in unserved and underserved areas.

The Board of Supervisors approved the expenditure in June 2021, with the county now working to determine where those improvements are most needed. Among the areas under consideration are parts of north Monterey County, rural neighborhoods outside of Salinas, Big Sur, San Ardo, and San Lucas, where broadband service is unreliable or nonexistent, according to Eric Chatham, chief information officer for Monterey County.

News courtesy of Santa Cruz County, PatchGovernment TechnologyKSBW