SANTA CRUZ — The Federal Communications Commission has authorized nearly $14 million in funding to be spent to expand broadband to rural areas in California during the next 10 years.
Earlier this month, the commission approved nearly $13.92 million in funding for satellite provider Viasat. In the next 10 years, Viasat will service 18,795 remote and rural homes and businesses in 47 counties, including Santa Cruz County. These locations will have broadband available for speeds of at least 25 megabits per second for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. These are the FCC’s standard speeds for broadband, according to FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield. For perspective, general internet browsing and email has a minimum download speed of 1 Mbps and streaming HD video has a minimum download speed of 5-8 Mbps, according to the FCC.
In total, Santa Cruz County is authorized to receive $315,241 for rural broadband during the next decade. In Santa Cruz County, 77 locations will receive broadband from Viasat, with $72,430 in funding during the next 10 year, according to the release. Viasat will start to receive funding later this month, the release reported. From a previous round of funding, internet provider Hankins Information Technology was also authorized to provide broadband in the county. In November, Hankins was authorized $242,811 to provide broadband to 84 locations in the county for the next 10 years, according to an FCC release. The specific locations that will obtain service could not be determined from the FCC bidding map.
“In California and across the nation, we’re continuing to close the digital divide so that all Americans — no matter where they live — have access to affordable broadband connectivity and the digital opportunity it brings,” said Ajit Pai, FCC chairman in a news release.
This funding comes from the 2018 Connect America Fund Phase II auction, a bidding event the commission held in July and August 2018 to help reform its service programs. Bidding from the auction allocated about $1.49 billion in funding for the next decade to more than 700,000 rural homes and businesses across 45 states. More than 100 broadband companies won bids to receive funding to provide service, including Viasat, according to an FCC press release. This broadband expansion is expected to reach nearly 18,800 unserved rural homes and businesses in California, according to the FCC.
Before broadband is accessible, the FCC must make sure the broadband companies that won each bid can actually provide these services. The FCC then authorizes the funding in stages, or rounds. This recent allotment is the eighth round of authorized funding. In this round, the FCC authorized nearly $89.2 million to expand broadband to more than 123,000 unserved rural homes and businesses across 21 states for the next decade.
From all authorization rounds, the FCC has authorized more than $149 million in funding to California and $1.2 billion nationwide, which translates to 51,862 homes and businesses in California receiving broadband and 541,733 in the U.S. California has been awarded all of the broadband funding it is authorized to receive, according to Wigfield.