Supes tackle lack of rural Internet

01/03/2014

Rural Marin has a dearth of high-speed Internet access, posing particular obstacles for people living on agricultural lands. But the county may soon acquire funds to help remedy that problem: next week the Board of Supervisors will vote on whether or not to join a coalition of counties applying for a grant that could help expand high-speed Internet. “Marin, of the nine Bay Area counties, has the highest percentage of people unserved. Guess where they are? They’re in West Marin,” said Liza Crosse, an aide to Supervisor Steve Kinsey, adding that the other northern counties in the consortium have even bigger obstacles to access. Ranchers lament the difficulty of selling products through their websites when some locals have trouble just getting online. Local schools could also see a significant benefit, Ms. Crosse said. The coalition, which currently consists of Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino, is applying for $450,000, to be distributed over over three years, from the California Public Utilities Commission. That would not fund infrastructure, but instead help counties undertake planning efforts to identify which segments of their population need assistance in adopting broadband, as well as decide where future cables should be installed. The funds could also help the county revise its policies such that broadband companies would be required to provide a public benefit whenever they install cables. Supervisors will vote next Tuesday on whether or not to join the consortium. Letters of support have come from the Marin County Farm Bureau, Straus Family Creamery, Horizon Cable, the Coastal Health Alliance, Bolinas Community Public Utility District and other local groups.