Dec 03, 2006
Humboldt State University President Rollin Richmond is among 21 people named by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the statewide Broadband Task Force, a team of government and private sector stakeholders that will identify methods to make broadband Internet access readily available across California, including the North Coast.
President Richmond is among the co-founders of Redwood Coast Rural Action (RCRA), a partnership of HSU, College of the Redwoods, and the Humboldt Area Foundation that promotes regional economic and technology growth, including telecommunications and regional wireless broadband business planning. The foundation’s Peter Pennekamp also was named to the task force.
Dr. Richmond said, “This is an important opportunity for the North Coast to increase access to broadband Internet and encourage economic development along lines that will preserve the beauty of our region. I am pleased to have the chance to work with a distinguished group of colleagues to achieve this goal.”
The RCRA initiative encompasses Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino and Trinity Counties and the team is pursuing a second fiber optic line into Humboldt County to stimulate entrepreneurialism and bridge the “digital divide” that inhibits rural economic development.
A feasibility study issued last June that was commissioned by the RCRA, Humboldt County, the Redwood Technology Consortium, and the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, evaluated a proposed “middle mile” fiber route that would track with Highway 299 from Eureka to Redding. Alternatives are either an aerial route using PG&E;’s existing right-of-way or direct burial. The feasibility analysis, prepared by an outside consultant, said the aerial version would be the most economical over time and provide a realistic return on investment. The study estimated the cost of constructing and operating the aerial fiber route at $11 million on a 10-year timetable. The estimate for the buried fiber alternative was $24 million.
Governor Schwarzenegger signed an executive order to minimize regulatory roadblocks to broadband networks and the newly-appointed task force will further identify and eliminate obstacles to what the RCRA has called “bringing the world to your doorstep”—high-speed Internet access for everyone in the four counties, including the poor.
Regional leaders see the “People’s Broadband” as a surefire way to shrink the Redwood Coast’s geographical isolation, enable more families to attain economic self-sufficiency, reinforce the region’s economic base, and foster business and job opportunities that will encourage young people to remain in, or return to, the area after graduation.