Internet broadband
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CENTRAL COAST — California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved grant funding of up to $5.65 million to Cruzio Media, Inc., member of Monterey Bay Economic Partnership and Central Coast Broadband Consortium.

The funding will expand middle-mile broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved rural, agricultural and low-income communities on the Central Coast.

“This is a great win for our region,” said Tahra Goraya, president and CEO of Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP). “This project addresses a critical need to close the digital divide in an economically and geographically diverse region where many residents do not have access to affordable, reliable broadband.”

Using state-of-the-art fixed wireless hardware already deployed in a pilot project partnership with the Santa Clara County Office of Education, Cruzio’s Equal Access Summits to the Sea (EAS2C) Project will bring multi-hundred Mbps broadband to thousands of locations in this underserved region. The result will be greater competition and new opportunities leading to lower prices for residents across the entire region.

The EAS2C Project will construct a fixed-wireless hybrid middle-mile and last-mile broadband network that will enable speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) download and 1 Gbps upload to 759 unserved locations in Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, where the continued degradation of the copper-based telecommunications network only exacerbates digital inequities and public safety problem in rural areas frequently at risk of natural disasters.

Cruzio’s EAS2C Project is the largest of three CPUC grants, totaling a combined $7 million, awarded last week to support high-speed internet projects in rural areas of California. 

As executive director of the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, MBEP has been an early advocate and supportive partner of Cruzio’s EAS2C project, providing regional expertise, technical assistance and facilitated communications with the CPUC. The streamlined support played a significant role in ensuring that the region was not overlooked for funding in favor of more dense urban settings.

“Cruzio and CCBC have worked for many years towards improving broadband connectivity in our region,” said Cruzio Chief Operating Officer James Hackett. “With its generational upgrade to internet access in rural and underserved areas, Equal Access Summits to the Sea represents a huge step towards our shared goals. Without the consortium’s assistance in data analysis and community engagement, this project would not be possible.” 

The California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) Broadband Infrastructure Grant Account provides grant funding to internet service providers (ISPs) to build or upgrade broadband infrastructure in areas that are unserved by existing broadband providers.

Since 2016, the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership has championed digital equity in the Monterey Bay region, convening stakeholders toward collective impact in programs and policies that address the region’s digital divide. 

MBEP has previously collaborated with Cruzio, most notably on Equal Access Monterey Bay, an initiative to implement long-term solutions to provide broadband access for all residents of the Monterey Bay region, regardless of income or socioeconomic status. 

In 2021, MBEP helped secure a CPUC grant that allowed Cruzio to complete a CASF Line Extension Program project to bring broadband to over 250 residents of the San Jerardo farmworker housing cooperative near Salinas; the project was completed in fall 2022.

“I am pleased to support these CASF grants that will provide over $7 million to build-out broadband internet service to low-income households and businesses in unserved and underserved parts of our state,” said CPUC Commissioner Darcie L. Houck. “These awards will help address both the availability and affordability challenges to accessing broadband by supporting infrastructure grants that will bring essential broadband services to some of California’s most vulnerable customers.”

The project received strong community support from local government and community representatives, including U.S. Reps. Jimmy Panetta and Anna Eshoo, State Sen. John Laird, members of the Santa Cruz and Monterey County Boards of Supervisors, county superintendents, several mayors, civic and business leaders, and nonprofit organizations from across the region.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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