Do you have broadband internet at home? Is it reliable, fast and accessible? If you live in the more rural areas of Monterey County, or another underserved community, the answer to these questions might be no.Either way, the Federal Communications Commission wants to hear about your experiences with the availability and quality of high-speed internet as part of its Broadband Data Collection program. And the Community Association of Big Sur wants Big Sur residents, in particular, to sound off about their slow internet.
The FCC holds a goal to expand access to broadband. In order to do that, however, the agency needs an accurate map of where high-speed internet is and isn’t yet available. That’s where you, and your story, come in.
“Far too many Americans are left behind in access to jobs, education, and healthcare if they do not have access to broadband,” Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement announcing the data collection program. “Collecting data from consumers who are directly affected by the lack of access to broadband will help inform the FCC’s mapping efforts and future decisions about where service is needed.”
In its email, CABS urged Big Sur residents to respond to the FCC survey. “As most of you know, for the majority of Big Sur residents, businesses and schools, our only choice is Hughes or Viasat satellite service,” the group wrote. “Advertised speeds for this service are 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up.”
These are, CABS notes, the minimum necessary to be defined as “high-speed.” Unfortunately, however, “Often these speeds are never reached.”
The pandemic, and the resulting rush of people working and learning from home, has intensified focus on closing the so-called “digital divide” between the high-speed internet haves and have-nots. At the federal level, Covid-relief legislation has set aside funding to expand broadband infrastructure and connectivity. In the state of California, there are a number of broadband proposals including the California Broadband for All Bond Act of 2022, a $10 billion general obligation bond measure to help close the digital divide throughout California.
In Big Sur, at least, there is also the hope that faster internet could come not from government intervention but from technological advancement. Starlink, a division of billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket company, is working to put small satellites are in low-Earth orbit, meaning they can provide much faster service compared to traditional satellite internet. The company is promising coverage in mid to late 2021 and people are already lining up, paying a $99 deposit to secure their spot in a first-come, first-served line.