OWN VOICE. ~ InPerspective by Gregg Dieguez —
I was notified this evening (9/20/23 10pm) that the news is official: the Calif. Dept. of Technology has restored the Midcoast and HMB to the Middle Mile Broadband Initiative (MMBI). This is good news which overcomes the bad news, when they pulled us off the map without notice (to me at least) at the end of July.
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Those of you who have been following this story know that the State pulled the Coastside “off the map” (right>> ) for the Federal and State infrastructure MMBI program, a program led nationally by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (OUR Rep!, and former SMC Supervisor). I found out about that on an August 4th call with Marina MacLatchie of the NTIA, who told us when Leo Gomez and I were learning about the potential Federal and State Grant programs, that the State had redrawn the map the prior Friday – without us.
CPUC Announcement: Middle Mile Broadband Network Map Update
The MMBI is intended for vulnerable communities lacking the essential modern infrastructure: good internet. Which is now a requirement for First World school, work, play, health care, emergency response, and businesses. Clearly the Coastside has its share of farm workers, mobile home residents, homeless housing, and house-rich/cash-poor seniors. But some of us have decent internet, some of the time. We were probably removed from Phase 1 because internet access exists, and because the State didn’t read the MCC’s & Leo’s 40+ page report documenting our lack of coverage, speed and reliability.
So on Aug. 8th I dashed off an email to Karen Chapman, Rep. Eshoo’s lead aide with us, Joan Dentler, State Sen. Becker’s lead here, and Mila Zelkha, State Rep. Berman’s aide for the Midcoast. My take was: “they’re gold-plating the connections that already exist and ignoring the new ones needed”. By Aug. 10th Karen had a draft letter for me to edit, and I stressed the unique vulnerability Coastside – Yes we have some internet and cell service here, but it’s slow, unreliable, and spotty coverage, and it’s our only “lifeline communication” (using a Ray Mueller term) during disasters. With Highway 1 our only evacuation route, we’re in worse shape than Paradise (on a par with Lahaina, Maui), and as I said at Anna Eshoo’s press conference announcing the Federal Broadband, Equity, Accessibility and Deployment grant program (BEAD) ($42B, with $1.8B for Calif.)… “without the MMBI, you can’t even hear us cry for help!”.
Ray Mueller told me that, from his calls with the State, it appeared they cut us out because it’s much more expensive to lay fiber here than say in flat central valley farmland, about 3 times more. And OF COURSE IT IS, that’s because of all the disaster vulnerability caused by our sea level-rising coast, and hills and earthquake faults, and flooding and THAT’S WHY WE NEED THE COMMUNICATIONS.
So I made that point in the group letter to Gov. Newsom that Karen let me edit: that we are 5-fold more vulnerable with earthquake, wildfire, sea-level rise, flooding and tsunamis than your normal central valley farmland, and we have more people at risk. And it seems to have worked, or at least been PART of the justification for putting us “back on the map”.
So, I’ll never know the details of who twisted whose appendages, but I have a pretty good guess that Anna must have said something like “I authored a landmark, generational infrastructure bill – the equivalent of Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System – and you cut MY district out of the program I’m funding for YOUR State?!”… Strongly worded letter to follow. And now we’re back on the map (Right >>). You can help keep vigilant watch on the map on your own here. And in a real surprise, they put Highway 92 (which had always been Phase 2) back in as well, giving us a robust “loop” of fiber redundancy without going all the way to Hwy 84, as Comcast does now (and we all know how well THAT’s been working).
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Thanks are due to our elected Representatives who stood up for the Coastside, and to their essential aides who worked together to make this happen.
Did you ever notice that when you have a bad toothache, and you go to the dentist, and he fixes it… afterwards you feel better than if you never had a toothache to begin with? This seems a little like that.
So, Leo Gomez and I are back to working on a Grant application with the City of Half Moon Bay. There are going to be many more twists and turns before you and I have 1 gigabit speeds, both upload and download, in the cable to our homes – and I’m not just talking about the wiring. But at least we are back on an officially recognized path to a modern telecommunications future Coastside!
Mr. Dieguez is a native San Franciscan, longtime San Mateo County resident, and semi-retired entrepreneur who causes occasional controversy on the Coastside. He is Chair of the MCC, but his opinions here are his own, and not those of the Council. In 2003 he co-founded MIT’s Clean Tech Program here in NorCal, which became MIT’s largest alumni speaker program. He lives in Montara. He loves a productive dialog in search of shared understanding.