County Administrator's Office
For Immediate Release

County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors approves Access Sonoma Broadband Action Plan to close ‘Digital Divide’

Santa Rosa, CA  –  June 8, 2021  –  The County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors today approved the Access Sonoma Broadband Action Plan to explore the creation of a publicly governed entity that would deploy, own, and manage broadband infrastructure for underserved or unserved regions of Sonoma County. The Broadband Action Plan aligns with Sonoma County’s five-year Strategic Plan for resilient infrastructure by seeking to improve equitable access to broadband internet technology, wireless and cell phone services.

“Broadband internet access is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. There’s a digital divide in Sonoma County where the infrastructure either does not exist or service is simply unaffordable in some communities,” Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, Chair of the Board of Supervisors said. “This plan presents a path forward on establishing a public-private partnership that can identify community needs, leverage funding, and effectively expand access to broadband technology in Sonoma County.”

Because it is not considered economically viable for most private companies to install broadband to unserved and underserved parts of Sonoma County, a publicly governed broadband entity could build, own and maintain broadband infrastructure. Service providers would lease the infrastructure to provide internet services at a reduced rate. The fees paid by service providers to the public entity would be used to maintain the infrastructure.

The Access Sonoma Broadband Action Plan includes $315,000 of General Fund investment for the Sonoma County Economic Development Board to conduct research and analysis of publicly governed broadband entities, including technical and local input. Staff members will share findings with the Board of Supervisors in six months on potential organization structures, recommendations for governance structure, grant funding opportunities and identification of specific projects.

In order for Sonoma County to qualify for grants, funding, and other means to improve broadband access for its communities, the actual level of broadband availability must be identified. Current broadband availability data, which is self-reported by service providers, is often inaccurate and can result in over-claimed service availability. In response, the Sonoma County Economic Development Board recently announced the Access Sonoma Broadband Speed Test Initiative, which allows community members to test their current home internet speeds to provide granular data that will help determine the quality of access countywide, particularly in areas where services are lacking or non-existent. 

The Access Sonoma Broadband Action Plan is available here:
https://sonoma-county.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4969607&GUID=2C155E3E-CBC0-406A-8D98-90893354EC4E
.

More information about the Access Sonoma Broadband Action Plan and Speed Test Initiative is available here:
http://sonomaedb.org/Current-Projects/Broadband/
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Media Contact:
Dan Virkstis
publicaffairs@sonoma-county.org
(707) 565-3040
575 Administration Drive, Suite 104A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

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