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$500,000 For Local Broadband Effort

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Sonora, CA — Money from the federal CARES Act will help develop a plan to improve broadband availability in the five-county region of Tuolumne, Calaveras, Alpine, Amador and Mariposa.

CARES is an acronym for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities Act. In total, $1.5 billion is going to economic assistance programs in response to impacts from COVID-19. Locally, $500,000 is going to the regional broadband effort.

The application was spearheaded by Cole Przybyla, Tuolumne County’s Director of Innovation and Business Assistance. He says, “The coronavirus pandemic made it very clear that we have some connectivity issues in Tuolumne County that need to be addressed whether it is students doing remote learning or businesses doing remote work.”

He says Tuolumne County will be leading the effort to put the regional plan together, but the other counties will be very much involved. The next step will be to put out a “request for qualifications” for a firm help develop the plan. It should take about nine months to complete. During that time there will be public and business outreach.

The two-fold goal is to create a model that allows private internet service providers to invest in infrastructure, and to attract federal grant dollars.

Further explaining, “On the provider side we want to create a website that allows an internet service provider to go online, utilizing this plan, and the website will show them which permits they need, or processes required, to go across the county lines (developing broadband). Hopefully those county processes are all the same. It will also show funding that may be available from California through advance services funds or federal dollars.”

“And then on the second side, with public money, we want to make sure that this plan has project-ready infrastructure. That way when there is a potential infrastructure bill, or more dollars available, that we have projects that are ready to apply with.”

Governor Gavin Newsom also put a statement in response to the regional $500,000 grant award. He says, “Universal broadband is critical to the state’s economy, education and basic health and well-being, and will help California recover from the pandemic in an equitable way. The state is grateful for this support for the Central Sierra region’s broadband planning, and we look forward to continuing to work with the federal government to close the Digital Divide for all Californians.”