Four cities in southern Monterey County, plus the county itself, are one step closer to a stated goal of universal high-speed internet access in South County after the California Public Utilities Commission announced a grant of $2.5 million in broadband technical assistance funding.
It’s an early success story for the South County Joint Powers Authority which was created in March 2022. After an initial round of state funding for middle-mile broadband infrastructure (think: state highways connecting the broadband backbone to more specific regions) omitted any projects in Monterey County, the cities of Gonzales, Greenfield, King City, Soledad, and the County of Monterey, joined together to “speak as one voice” and lobby for future funding, Supervisor Chris Lopez told the Weekly in March.
“There’s a lot of new funding available… at the end, you rely on rulemaking and processes in terms of how communities can or can’t access that funding,” Lopez told the Weekly this summer. “We’re trying to pull down as much funding as we can through this JPA to offset the cost of our vision—which is to run fiber to every home.”
In this latest round of state funding, each municipality, and the county, will get approximately $500,000. The grants will be used to cover the planning costs for the middle-mile fiber buildout, and last-mile connections, with the ultimate goal of creating an open-access network.
For Supervisor Lopez, whose District 3 encompasses South County, building this internet infrastructure throughout the area is about much more than the impact lack of access has on people today—it’s about setting his community up to attract the businesses and workers necessary to thrive into the future.
“Not having access to the internet will become more than just ‘Oh, kids couldn’t get to school,’” he told the Weekly. “It’s going to be the difference between health outcomes, it’s going to be the difference in terms of economic opportunity, and it’s going to create a vast difference in terms of how a community grows.”
In all during this round the CPUC awarded $14 million in grants to 28 local governments across California. The money is part of a $6 billion state-wide investment in broadband infrastructure.