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Envisioning ‘Broadband For All’ in the Greater Sacramento Region

Pictured: Valley Vision CEO Evan Schmidt leading the Greater Sacramento Broadband for All Digital Equity and BEAD Workshop at the Sacramento Public Library Galleria in Sacramento, CA on May 11, 2023

On May 11th Valley Vision, as manager of the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium, hosted California’s Broadband for All Digital Equity and Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Planning Workshop for the Greater Sacramento Region. This event was held in collaboration with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California Department of Technology (CDT) and the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), as one of 17 regional workshops being convened across the state. The event provided an opportunity for more than 160 participants to contribute vital input on regional needs and priorities for the state’s ‘Broadband For All’ action plan. The recommendations will help shape California’s Digital Equity Plan being submitted to the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA). As part of a national process, NTIA will then determine the allocation of BEAD funding for each state. 

Local leaders and broadband champions, including Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Sacramento Councilmember Katie Valenzuela, and Valley Vision CEO Evan Schmidt highlighted the unique needs and assets of our region, along with their commitment to bridging the digital divide in collaboration with community stakeholders and state and federal partners.

“Digital equity is a civil rights issue,” Steinberg told participants. “It involves unincorporated areas. It involves rural areas. But it is also an urban issue. This is really serious and important work.”

State and federal leaders from the CPUC, CDT, California’s Department of Education, Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), and NTIA detailed the progress of the State’s ongoing planning and deployment efforts. These include the development of the State’s Middle-Mile open access network, new Last Mile infrastructure funding sources, resources such as California Local Jurisdiction Permitting Playbook, and progress from Broadband for All Roundtables. CPUC Commissioner Darcie Houck noted that funding from numerous new sources will make a major difference in closing the digital divide, although even more will be needed eventually.

Amplifying Community Voices

Following remarks and overview, the Workshop provided a space for several community members to voice their experiences with digital access. As each Lived Experience Speaker took the stage, their unique history and stories were pivotal in sparking discussions across attendees. Lived Experience Speakers not only represented the region, but also federally-designated covered populations which have been historically underrepresented in digital inclusion and broadband implementation. Hearing the experiences and insights of community members underscored the importance of bridging the Digital Divide, and led the way to the Workshop’s segment on developing and leading calls to action. 

Led by CETF, the collaboration session gathered input from participants to create actionable recommended strategies across various areas – including each covered population group and outcome area. The eight covered populations groups, which have been disproportionately affected by digital redlining are, Individuals living in covered households, Aging Individuals, Incarcerated Individuals, Veterans, Individuals with Disabilities, Individuals with language barriers, Members of a racial or ethnic minority group, and Individuals who primarily reside in a rural area. The six outcome area working groups, which are high priorities areas for digital equity are, Education, Health, Digital Literacy and Inclusion, Essential Services, Accessibility and Civic Engagement, Workforce and Economic Development, and Tribal Collaboration.

Participants’ recommended strategies include to “incorporate digital literacy education and information about affordable offers into existing programs, including Veterans Administration healthcare facilities” and “propose increased funding to support a program to provide language support and translation services during appointments.” 

The Greater Sacramento Workshop featured both high registration and attendance numbers, with attendance totaling to over 160 participants. The success of the Greater Sacramento Workshop would not have been possible without the support of our regional network and community members, as well as our dedicated state partners. Valley Vision greatly thanks all attendees for their participation at the Workshop, assistance in outreach, and guided input in the planning process. 

Continuing Engagement

As efforts continue, Valley Vision is committed to informing and engaging the region on critical broadband infrastructure, access and deployment. We invite organizations and community members involved in digital equity to attend the Capital Region Coalition for Digital Inclusion (CRCDI)’s upcoming meeting on Friday, June 23rd from 11am – 12:30pm. The meeting will focus on outcomes and findings from our region’s BEAD and Digital Equity Workshop, along with updates on the State’s Digital Equity Plan. Register HERE

Additionally, we encourage civic organizations, community members, and entities across education, health, economic and workforce sectors to participate in and support outreach for the California Digital Equity Survey. Information collected from the survey will help inform the State’s Digital Equity Plan, and help ensure community access to high quality and affordable internet service, devices, skills training, and digital support. The survey is estimated to be 10-15 minutes, and is available in 14 languages: English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Korean, Armenian, Persian/Farsi, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Punjabi, and Khmer. Access the California Digital Equity Survey HERE

Get Connected! California: A Call to Action

New Campaign Helps to Close the Digital Divide by Providing Affordable, High-Speed Internet to Low-Income Families

The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare throughout our region and nationally the existing and pervasive disparities in access to affordable, reliable high-speed Internet. These disparities accelerated through the rapid shift to remote work and learning, online access to vital services, e-commerce, and social connectivity. This Digital Divide hinders the upward mobility of unserved and underserved communities, resulting in inequities across all aspects of life, with profound economic and social impacts on communities.

One important solution to bridging the Digital Divide is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program helping families and households get connected to affordable broadband and devices through a monthly subsidy. The program helps to ensure that eligible households can access affordable high-speed internet for school, work and healthcare, among many other needs.

However, enrollment levels for this important program are very low. More than 385,000 households are eligible for this program in our region, but only 89,675 households have enrolled – just 23% overall. There are still more than 295,000 eligible households which are unenrolled, a gap of 76% must be filled in order to bridge the Digital Divide. Enrollment rates vary by county – see table below. We are leaving behind subsidies for our families worth millions of dollars in monthly Internet subscription fees behind.

Credit: Navreet Hundal, Valley Vision

Call to Action: CETF Get Connected! CA Statewide Mobilization

A similar gap statewide is why California leaders are mobilizing to greatly expand ACP enrollment. In March 2022, the California Broadband Council (CBC) issued a “Call to Action” to get 90% of all eligible low-income households online by 2024 with high-speed internet service, and 95% by 2027.

In response, the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), along with the California Department of Technology (CDT), California Department of Education (CDE), California State Library, and California State Association of Counties (CSAC), are coordinating a statewide mobilization campaign to promote the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) known as GetConnected! California.

Through this campaign, partners will distribute ACP information to all eligible recipients, and are working together with a statewide network of community-based organizations (CBOs) who are the “trusted messengers” to organize in-person sign-up locations to assist residents in ACP enrollment.

The direct communications and mobilization campaign is focused on August 2022 as the first Get Connected! California month, when students are returning to school and in coordination with back- to-school activities. The mobilization efforts will distribute information about the ACP benefit, eligibility requirements, and where to get enrollment help to reach every family with a child on the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), all participants on Medi-Cal and CalFresh, Pell grant students, and library patrons in priority neighborhoods throughout the state.

Get Connected! California mobilization is happening now! Given that 90% of the ACP-Eligible Households are on Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and National School Lunch Program, the first phase of organizing has been to ensure that all Counties and Schools (with support of State Agencies) are preparing to reach all the households on these public assistance programs. 

In our region we are working with partners on strategies to enroll eligible households for the ACP. Some of the activities include:

  • Promoting Get Connected! California through local contacts
  • Distributing information to eligible households
  • Hosting an enrollment assistance site on Get Connected! California Day – August 27, 2022
  • Coordinating Get Connected! California activities for your county
  • Supporting future Get Connected California! events and activities, including back to school activities
  • PSA placement

With all our combined efforts, unserved and underserved households who are eligible will have access to affordable high-speed internet and we will be one step closer to bridging the Digital Divide. Let’s all mobilize together to bring broadband access to the most disadvantaged communities!

Thank you to all our partners, and a huge thank you to the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) in leading this “Call to Action” and for supporting Valley Vision in this effort!

See below for more information on the ACP program.

The FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP): Who is Eligible?

Program Benefits for Eligible Households:

  • A discount of up to $30/month for internet service
  • A discount of up to $75/month towards internet service for households on qualifying Tribal lands
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 towards purchase of laptops, computers, or tablets from participating providers

Affordable Connectivity Program Eligibility:

Per the FCC program guidelines, a household is eligible if the household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if a member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:

  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income internet program;
  • Participates in one of these assistance programs:
    • The National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision;
    • SNAP
    • Medicaid
    • Federal Public Housing Assistance
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • WIC
    • Veterans Pension or Survivor Benefits
  • Participates in one of these assistance programs and lives on Qualifying Tribal lands:
    • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
    • Tribal TANF
    • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
    • Tribal Head Start (income based)

Visit California Department of Technology’s webpage for Broadband For All to track enrollment in your county and region, where up to date information and enrollment progress is made available by CETF in partnership with the Geographical Information Center at Chico State Enterprises (CSE).

To continue staying up to date with all of the region’s broadband efforts, subscribe to Valley Vision’s e-Connect email newsletter!

Kathy Saechou is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting its Clean Economy and broadband initiatives.

Trish Kelly is Valley Vision’s Managing Director, leading its food, agriculture, and broadband initiatives.

Caitlin Blockus and Navreet Hundal also contributed to the writing of this blog.

Capital Region Workforce Boards Champion Digital Inclusion

The Capital Region’s four workforce boards recognize the digital divide must be addressed in order to support inclusive job growth and social mobility for our region’s workers. In response, they have provided a  significant investment in the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion’s (Coalition) efforts to address digital skills, technology access, and broadband infrastructure and affordability needs. The Capital Region Workforce Boards include SETA/Sacramento Works, Golden Sierra Job Training Agency, YoloWorks and North Central Counties Consortium. According to Roy Kim, Deputy Director of SETA/Sacramento Works, “Digital skills have become part of the basket of basic skills that job seekers need to obtain employment and advance along a career pathway.”  The funding provided will support the effort to sustain, implement and expand the Coalition’s work to ensure traditionally underserved community members receive access, devices and skill building resources to participate in our increasingly digital world. 

Valley Vision is actively working to close the digital divide in the Capital region. The Coalition, managed by Valley Vision, recently completed a 2021 Action Plan as a roadmap to advance and expand digital inclusion in three core areas: broadband access and adoption, hardware devices, and digital literacy and skills. Valley Vision also manages the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium, connecting the region’s underserved households with high speed broadband infrastructure. By addressing needs in infrastructure, affordability, technology access, and digital skills, our region is taking a comprehensive approach to closing the digital divide – recognizing that these pillars are co-equal in addressing economic and educational inequity.

The Coalition was founded as a response to the 2018 Brookings Institution economic assessment, commissioned by Valley Vision and civic partners in the Sacramento Capital Region.  With the onset of COVID-19, the Coalition quickly mobilized and expanded vital digital equity efforts. The effort has expanded since that time and today consists of a steering committee of representatives from the City of Sacramento and the Sacramento Public Library, as founding SCDI members, and the Capital Region Workforce Boards, California State University Sacramento, Los Rios Community College District, and Clear Strategies with participation from over one hundred additional community leaders and stakeholders. Advancing digital skills and closing the digital divide are called out as major regional priorities in the Capital region’s inclusive economic development plan, Our Path Forward: The Prosperity Strategy

The Workforce Boards have been vital contributors to the region’s economic prosperity with prior initiatives that support entrepreneurship, high-growth industry sectors, and through advancing research on the Future of Work. This critical investment in digital inclusion will help to advance an inclusive, regional workforce and further equity efforts in our shared economy.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!

Renee John is a Valley Vision Project Leader managing initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Note: The Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium is funded by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

The Latest on Broadband Coverage in the Capital Region

In November 2020, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) released the latest broadband availability data that reflect broadband coverage in California as of December 2019. This blog will present an overview of the broadband coverage in the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium (CCABC) Region, and in the four counties (Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba), based on the following speed standards:

  • 6/1 Mbps (megabits per second): Current California standard (AB1665).
  • 25/3 Mbps: FCC standard. Minimum recommended in a previous blog for households using video conference applications for education or work, and/or having multiple simultaneous users at home.
  • 100/20 Mbps: Goal set in the Governor’s Executive Order and the California Broadband 4 All Action Plan.
  • 1Gbps/500Mbps: FCC Gigabit service standard.

Based on these standards, the table below presents the coverage and percentage of served and unserved households. At the standard of 6/1 Mbps, the region is at 97.4% coverage (around 17,000 unserved households) which is close to the goal of 98% broadband access in California and in each consortium region. Sacramento has the highest coverage, 97.7%, followed by Sutter, 97%, Yolo, 96.4%, and Yuba, 94.7%. For the 25/3 Mbps standard, the figures are slightly below, achieving a 96.9% in the region (around 20,000 unserved households). At the 100/20 Mbps standard, the regional coverage turns into 93.2%, increasing the number of unserved households to around 44,000. For these three standards, regional coverage is comfortably above 90% coverage, however, for the Gigabit standard, the regional coverage dramatically drops to 22.5% or half a million unserved households.

The figure below shows the layered coverage at the speed standards mentioned above. The higher speeds coverage, 100/20 Mbps and Gigabit (in blue and gray, respectively), is mostly in main urban and densely populated areas across the region. Speeds of 6/1 Mbps and 25/3 Mbps (in light blue and green, respectively) are also available in these areas, and additionally, in suburban and some rural areas. Areas unserved at 6/1 Mbps or with no service are mostly scattered across rural areas across the four counties.

The table and figure below present the broadband coverage by four technologies widely used to provide internet service: DSL, Cable Modem, Fiber to the location (FTTx), and fixed wireless (unlicensed and licensed). Cable Modem has the highest coverage in the region, 94%, and in each of the four counties, followed by legacy DSL, 76%. FTTx achieves a regional presence of around 35%, followed by fixed wireless, 4%. It is important to note that in the figure below, fixed wireless shows the largest footprint in the region, however, this coverage is mostly in less densely populated rural areas. As a result, fixed wireless covers less number of households than the other technologies.

It is important to note that the CPUC broadband availability data is self-reported from ISPs and telecom companies. Many local broadband stakeholders (local governments, communities, residents, and other ISPs) have expressed concerns that some of the data do not reflect what is actually available. For those cases, the CPUC has implemented several validation methods which can be found here. The CCABC recommends internet users to download and run the CalSPEED app ( in order to validate broadband coverage and speeds in the region. In conclusion, these latest CPUC broadband availability figures show that, based on the California 6/1 Mbps standard, our consortium region is still below the 98% availability for households. For the other standards, availability continues dropping to near 93% for 100/20 Mbps, and 22% for an ideal Gigabit service.

This 2021, the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium (CCABC) looks forward to continuing working with all broadband stakeholders to get closer to the goal of achieving ubiquitous reliable high-speed and affordable broadband internet for all.

To continue staying up to date with all of the region’s broadband efforts, subscribe to Valley Vision’s e-Connect email newsletter!

David Espinoza is a former Valley Vision Project Leader who managed broadband projects and other initiatives in the Innovation & Infrastructure impact area.

The Year In Broadband…

Broadband has long been recognized as indispensable to equity and economic development. In recent years, significant progress has been made to ensure statewide access. Still, over 8 million California residents do not have broadband subscriptions. We have a long way to go before broadband in California is truly ubiquitous. 

In 2020, there has been accelerated momentum around the issue. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many Californians to pivot some of the most crucial elements of their life — work, school, healthcare, access to services — to an online setting. This shift is an urgent reminder that, in this day and age, broadband infrastructure and adoption is as crucial as roads or electricity.

Valley Vision works with counties, cities, anchor institutions, community groups, businesses, policymakers, and others to bridge the Digital Divide and promote equal access to technology. In 2020, this was embodied in our work contributing to state broadband policy, together with the California Broadband Council, California Forward, the California Emerging Technology Fund, and legislative leaders; our continued role as manager of the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium; and our management of the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion, among others. Broadband infrastructure and adoption is also identified as a high priority of the region’s Prosperity Strategy.

State-level highlights:

  • Valley Vision worked closely with California Forward, the California Emerging Technology Fund, and regional broadband consortia to provide input on AB 14, the Internet for All Now Act of 2021. The Bill would authorize the ongoing collection of an existing surcharge on revenues collected by telecommunications providers from customers. The surcharge funds the California Advanced Services Fund, which provides rural and urban communities with infrastructure and other grants administered by the California Public Utilities Commission. This new legislation was announced by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry at the California Economic Summit during a panel on Bridging the Digital Divide, together with Senator Mike McGuire; Trish Kelly, Managing Director of Valley Vision; and Deputy Director Stephanie Tom of the California Department of Technology. Senator Lena Gonzalez introduced similar legislation SB 4, the Broadband for All Now Act. Both legislators will be principal co-authors on each Bill. This is a major milestone and we hope for quick action in 2021
  • Valley Vision, in collaboration with the California Broadband Council and California Forward, facilitated input for the State’s Broadband Action Plan. An updated draft of the Plan was presented at the Broadband Council’s meeting on Thursday, December 17. The Plan provides a rich overview of the state of broadband across the State, a financial cost model for reaching all Californians with high-speed Internet, and many recommendations for action in 2021. 
  • Valley Vision co-led this year’s Ensuring Broadband For All working group at the California Economic Summit. The group’s efforts focused on increasing broadband access and adoption in both rural and urban areas. The group developed core principles to drive funding and policy solutions; encouraged collaboration on legislative solutions; supported the State Broadband Action Plan; and worked with the California Public Utilities Commission and others on innovative approaches to infrastructure investment, including leveraging federal resources.

Regional highlights:

  • Valley Vision manages the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium. Funding for the Consortium was renewed by the California Public Utilities Commission in October 2019, for a three-year period. The Consortium is charged with engaging stakeholders to achieve the broadband connectivity goal of 98% of all households, assisting internet service providers in the region with their California Advanced Services Fund infrastructure grant applications, among other goals. In 2020, Digital Path and Frontier submitted a total of three applications to carry out broadband deployment in Sacramento, Sutter, and Yolo Counties. The Consortium will continue to work with incumbent, competitive, and new entrant internet service providers.
  • Valley Vision, together with its partners, finalized and published the Sacramento Region’s Prosperity Strategy — the economic roadmap that ensures a strong, inclusive, and equitable economy. The Strategy calls out broadband infrastructure and adoption, including digital skills acquisition, as high priorities for the region, and was approved by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. 
  • Valley Vision is working with local government partners in Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba Counties to identify priority areas for broadband expansions or upgrades, including 5G. This includes generating an infrastructure and asset inventory in collaboration with the California Public Utilities Commission, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, Caltrans, CENIC, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, the Los Rios Community College District, Sacramento State, the City of Sacramento, the Sacramento Promise Zone, among others.
  • Valley Vision, the California Emerging Technology Fund, and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments virtually co-convened broadband partners and stakeholders to discuss strategies for accelerating broadband infrastructure investments across the region. The event also showcased highlights of “Getting Connected,” a resource guide for local and regional government leaders featuring best practices, policies, and innovative models to catalyze infrastructure investment and adoption. The resource guide will be rolled out statewide in January 2021
  • Valley Vision put out a Business Broadband Service Survey to assess the current status of broadband service availability and subscription for businesses and community anchor institutions. Results from the survey will help determine and recommend improvements to broadband stakeholders, such as providers and local governments. Outreach for this survey will continue in 2021, through social media, newsletters, and outreach to business chambers. 
  • Valley Vision launched a campaign — via social media, its newsletters, and outreach to partners and stakeholders — around ground-truth testing of broadband speeds using the CalSPEED app. The app securely tests residential and mobile broadband speeds. Often, the speeds reported by internet service providers are not accurate. Information from the CalSPEED app creates an accurate assessment of actual broadband availability and adoption. Results are used to update the California Public Utilities Commission statewide coverage map and inform infrastructure investments. The campaign resulted in more than 500 CalSPEED tests in our Consortium region. It will continue throughout 2021.
  • Valley Vision is completing its Preferred Scenario report for the region, in partnership with the California Emerging Technology Fund. The Preferred Scenario report identifies gaps in broadband deployment and access and the available local assets to address these gaps for the region’s Preferred Scenario corridor the I -5 corridor. This corridor was identified through the Strategic Broadband Corridors project with Caltrans and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. This report will identify strategies for leveraging investments. 
  • Valley Vision, in partnership with the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, hosted a webinar focused on exploring innovative broadband infrastructure solutions, specifically the co-op model.
  • The Federal Communications Commission announced  the results of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction. Winners in our Consortium region (Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba Counties) include Cal.Net, Geolinks, Frontier, LTD Broadband, and Space Exploration Technologies (Space X). Most locations will be receiving broadband with speeds of 100/20 Mbps, and gigabit-speed broadband. Click here to see the map.

Local highlights:

  • Valley Vision is developing a Broadband Master Plan for Yuba County, in partnership with the County and Yuba Water Agency. The plan will be completed in the second quarter of 2021. 
  • Valley Vision is managing the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion, in collaboration with the city of Sacramento, the Sacramento Public Library, the Los Rios Community College District, California State University Sacramento, and Clear Strategies, among other community partners. The Coalition will be rolling out the 2021 Action Plan for broadband access, adoption, affordability, and digital inclusion and skills, including scale-up opportunities beyond Sacramento County. 
  • Valley Vision, in collaboration with the Delta Protection Commission, developed a broadband coverage report that will help to identify areas where service most needs improvement. This will empower community leaders and internet service providers to leverage existing opportunities for service expansion and upgrades, and to seek broadband deployment funding.    

Valley Vision hosted a webinar on “Community Broadband in Yolo County,” in partnership with the Woodland Technology Alliance. The webinar was a conversation about the current state of the County’s technical infrastructure, as well as solutions to address the community’s broadband gaps. A full recording can be found here, and a summary of the discussion can be found here.

To continue staying up to date with all of the region’s broadband efforts, subscribe to Valley Vision’s e-Connect email newsletter!

Trish Kelly is Valley Vision’s Managing Director, leading its food, agriculture, workforce, and broadband initiatives.

David Espinoza is a Valley Vision Project Leader managing broadband projects and other initiatives in the Innovation & Infrastructure impact area.

Isa Avanceña is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting the Board of Directors, and the Innovation & Infrastructure and Leadership and Civic Engagement Impact areas.

Getting Connected in the Capital Region: A Roundtable on Accelerating Broadband Infrastructure Investments

Accelerating broadband infrastructure investment has never been more urgent. Ubiquitous broadband is indispensable to our region’s recovery and resilience in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, October 1, Valley Vision, the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) virtually co-convened broadband partners and stakeholders to discuss how to accelerate broadband infrastructure investments across the region. The event also launched highlights of “Getting Connected,” a resource guide for local and regional government leaders to deploy 21st century broadband infrastructure. As manager of the CPUC-funded Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium (CCABC), Valley Vision partnered with CETF on preparing this leading-edge resource guide, which features best practices, policies, and innovative models to accelerate broadband infrastructure investment and adoption. 

Trish Kelly (Managing Director for Valley Vision) and Sunne McPeak (President and CEO of CETF) began the event with welcome remarks. They provided an overview of the CCABC mission; the Greater Sacramento Region Prosperity Strategy’s broadband infrastructure, access, and adoption priorities; Valley Vision and CETF’s Preferred Scenarios work identifying unserved communities, available public assets, and funding needs; as well as major new opportunities in the broadband space, following the Governor’s Executive Order N-73-20 for the California Broadband Council to create the California Broadband for All Plan by the end of the year.

Dr. David Espinoza (Valley Vision’s Project Lead for Innovation and Infrastructure) emphasized the need for increased investment in broadband. Espinoza did a deep dive into new data he generated estimating the cost of filling broadband gaps in the CCABC Region to achieve the State’s goal of 98% broadband service connectivity for households. The presentation featured coverage maps at different speed thresholds, and the methodology to calculate the cost per household for technologies such as fiber-to-the-home and fixed wireless in different geography and terrain scenarios.

Next, Isa Avanceña (Project Associate at Valley Vision), presented an overview of the Resource Guide. The Guide includes an overview of select broadband plans and ordinances across the State; case studies for broadband deployment and adoption; and a list of additional resources from national and state broadband agencies and organizations. It covers crucial topics such as broadband master plans, Dig Once/”Dig Smart” policies, municipal fiber to the premises, master license agreements, and 5G. The Resource Guide is being finalized, and will be released and widely disseminated in November. 

The event also brought together regional internet service providers and local elected officials in a two-part roundtable. Espinoza facilitated a roundtable discussion with a panel of Internet service and broadband infrastructure providers that included Crown Castle, Digital Path, GeoLinks, Zayo, and T-Mobile. In their discussion, the panelists identified what they need from jurisdictions in order to reduce the barriers to broadband infrastructure and deployment, as well as some of the best practices that they’ve come across currently being implemented in some cities and counties. Kelly facilitated a roundtable discussion with a panel of local elected officials: Mayor Pro Tempore Tom Stallard of the City of Woodland, Supervisor Don Nottoli of Sacramento County, and Supervisor Gary Bradford of Yuba County. They highlighted some of the challenges they face in getting fast and reliable internet access to all communities in their jurisdictions, and the solutions that they’d like to pursue to move the needle on the issue. 

The event generated a lot of momentum to accelerate partnerships and investments across the Capital Region, with collaboration and communication being two actions identified by all as essential to economic recovery and progress. Valley Vision thanks CETF for its continued support of our mission, and thanks all who participated; we look forward to advancing timely and effective solutions with our partners across the region. 

Event materials are available on the Valley Vision website, and provide more detailed information on the subject matter and outcomes:

This blog focuses on just some of the updates at the state, county, and local level. To continue staying up to date with all of the region’s broadband efforts, subscribe to Valley Vision’s e-Connect email newsletter!

Continuing Our Work Toward “Broadband for All”

As our region grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on daily life and the economy — now compounded by the ongoing wildfires — the digital divide continues to grow. The ability to do distance learning, telecommuting, and telehealth is critical, and it is becoming increasingly clear that there can be no real equity without ubiquitous broadband. State, regional, and local solutions must be pursued concurrently, in an “all hands on deck,” multi-pronged approach. 

State-level updates

On August 14, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-73-20, to address the broadband access, adoption, and training needs of Californians — all made more urgent by the COVID-19 pandemic. The following are some of the Order’s major provisions: 

  1. The order directs the California Broadband Council (CBC) to create a new State Broadband Action Plan by December 31, 2020, incorporating a goal of 100 Mbps download speed for infrastructure investment. The Plan will include a roadmap to accelerate deployment and adoption of broadband by state agencies; support such deployment and adoption by local governments; and provide publicly accessible information on all federal and state funding opportunities. 
  2. The Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is directed to lead broadband data aggregation and mapping efforts, and to provide information on public and private broadband network infrastructure and the cost of deploying network components. This effort will be supported by the California State Transportation Agency and other relevant state agencies; local and tribal governments; and regional consortia, like the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium (CCABC), managed by Valley Vision. 
  3. The California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) is directed to identify funding opportunities to support broadband, equipment, and digital literacy, in collaboration with all cabinet-level agencies, independent departments, and independent constitutional officers. 

In addition to these major provisions, the Order directs other state agencies to address the need for deployment and adoption by activating policies and leveraging resources — with particular emphasis on connecting residents with affordable internet service offerings, and ensuring that students have the connectivity and devices necessary for distance learning. 

On August 26, the CBC held a special session focused on the planning and implementation of the Governor’s Executive Order. CBC members and a wide range of broadband stakeholders attended the virtual meeting and provided input. The session generated the following proposed approach: 

  1. Developing an outline; 
  2. Articulating a vision;
  3. Compiling a fact base; 
  4. Developing a timing and cost model; 
  5. Mapping out funding and actions for 2021; 
  6. Conducting research on adoption gaps; and 
  7. Facilitating stakeholder sessions with local governments and the private sector. 

The regional broadband consortia, including the CCABC, will continue to actively support these efforts. 

Valley Vision has been working with the office of Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (Winters), the California Emerging Technology Fund, and a statewide network of more than 40 partners to support AB 570 – the Internet for All Act of 2020. AB 570 prioritizes the deployment of broadband infrastructure in the state’s most vulnerable, unserved, and underserved rural and urban communities. It extends the collection of funds for the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), to provide grants to bridge the Digital Divide. While the next stage of the legislative process is yet to be determined, the bill has helped make the case to the Legislature and Governor’s Office for increasing funding, to meet the needs that California is facing now and into the future. 

County-level efforts

As manager of the CCABC, Valley Vision hosted a webinar on August 11 on “Community Broadband in Yolo County,” in partnership with the Woodland Technology Alliance. The webinar was a conversation about the current state of the county’s technical infrastructure, as well as solutions to address the community’s broadband gaps. The webinar was a starting point for further exploring innovative strategies, and panelists represented several sectors of the region, including the local government, school district, and state government. A full recording can be found here, and a summary of the discussion can be found here. Valley Vision continues to work with Yolo and other counties to bring these issues to the forefront, and convene partners, stakeholders, and community members to build consensus and take next steps. 

Ground truth testing with CalSPEED

Valley Vision is working with local partners and communities from our region to demonstrate the need for better internet service in the region. Community members are encouraged to download the CPUC’s CalSPEED app, which securely tests residential and mobile broadband speeds. Results from the speed test crowdsource a statewide coverage map to inform infrastructure investments. A flyer containing information on the CalSPEED test can be found here

Additionally, the CPUC, in partnership with CSU, Chico and CSU, Monterey Bay are looking for volunteers to take part in the CalSPEED Home Broadband Study — a statewide effort to collect quality measurements utilizing the new CalSPEED Home Measurement Device. 

Please share this information with your partners, stakeholders, and networks. 

Low-cost internet service programs

In response to the increased need for distance learning, telecommuting, and telehealth capacity, several Internet Service Providers have begun offering low-cost internet service to families for qualifying low-income households. More information can be found here and here. Please share this information with your partners, stakeholders, and networks, to make sure that all community members are made aware of this option.

This blog focuses on just some of the updates at the state, county, and local level. To continue staying up to date with all of the region’s broadband efforts, subscribe to Valley Vision’s e-Connect email newsletter!

Trish Kelly is Valley Vision’s Managing Director, leading its food, agriculture, workforce, and broadband initiatives.

David Espinoza is a Valley Vision Project Leader managing broadband projects and other initiatives in the Innovation & Infrastructure impact area.

Isa Avanceña is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting the Board of Directors, and the Innovation & Infrastructure and Leadership and Civic Engagement Impact areas.

Accelerating Our Move Toward Universal Broadband Access

On April 23, Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves and staff from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) held a public workshop to review California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) initiatives and resources, and facilitate collaboration among regional consortia, stakeholders, local governments, and broadband providers.

Commissioner Guzman Aceves began the virtual workshop with CPUC updates on COVID-19 response actions such as enforcing new Utility Consumer Protections and updating the California Teleconnect Fund to enable distance learning for rural school districts. As COVID-19 continues to amplify and exacerbate the disparities of the Digital Divide, the CPUC and other state entities are mobilizing to ensure all Californians have access to reliable and affordable Internet access and equipment.

The pandemic also highlighted the importance of broadband deployment efforts such as the CASF Infrastructure Grant Aaccount which focuses on providing broadband access to 98% of households in each consortia region, through infrastructure projects. To be eligible, projects must provide broadband service at or above 10 Mbps download / 1 Mbps upload speeds to households identified as unserved. CPUC staff highlighted high density unserved areas in each consortia region that are eligible for funding, utilizing the California Interactive Broadband Map – a tool that provides transparent information on broadband adoption, deployment, and access data. The workshop provided timely information and opportunities for the May 4th CASF infrastructure grant application deadline.

Additionally, the workshop provided opportunities for each consortium to give updates on the varying broadband projects and initiates throughout several regions of the state. Valley Vision Managing Director, Trish Kelly, facilitated this discussion. CPUC staff also provided updates on efforts to ensure that California is able to receive new federal funding programs for broadband to address critical rural connectivity gaps. This is a high priority for the Capital Region which has been locked out of federal broadband funding investments. You can access the regional consortia update PowerPoints and all of the workshop materials here.

Yzabelle Dela Cruz is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the Innovation & Infrastructure and 21st Century Workforce impact areas.

Regional Broadband Consortia Powers up for Three More Years

In November 2019, Valley Vision was awarded funding to manage the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortia (CCABC) for the next three years, working alongside other regional consortia to achieve 98% broadband access within each region – its third grant from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) since 2012.

The CCABC is tasked to facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure throughout the four-county CCABC region (Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba counties), working with local municipalities, Internet service providers (ISPs), anchor institutions, community partners, and the State, among others to close the Digital Divide and improve access for the next three years. In this new phase of funding, the CCABC plans to use a reverse RFP approach, which will place a thorough case for investment in the hands of providers. The intent is to generate a more active response from providers by fulfilling as much of the planning work as possible and promoting competition.

Although there was a hiatus in CPUC funding in 2019 for most regional consortia, the CCABC was able to engage multiple stakeholders through several initiatives to improve broadband access, adoption and deployment. In February 2019, Valley Vision helped host a Digital Inclusion Summit, alongside the Sacramento Public Library and the City of Sacramento’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development, bringing together more than 100 participants, to facilitate collaboration among organizations and initiatives working to bridge the digital divide. This summit led to the development of the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion and the Digital Inclusion Week resolution passed in the City of Sacramento. In March 2019, Valley Vision hosted FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, to discuss rural broadband infrastructure and connectivity issues related to lack of eligibility for federal funding due to rural definitions, among other challenges. Chairman Pai visited two farms which are piloting ag technologies and the AgStart incubator in Woodland, and met with local and state policy leaders. The CCABC continues to work with the Chairman’s office and other Commissioners to address funding, mapping and other infrastructure challenges, along with federal agencies including NTIAEDA and USDA and congressional representatives to advance regional broadband priorities. This work will continue as part of the 2020 Cap-to-Cap trip in April.

Through funding from the Delta Protection Commission, Valley Vision developed a broadband action plan for five legacy communities along the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, all facing rural broadband infrastructure and funding challenges. As a lead partner in developing the Capital Region Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), with support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Valley Vision incorporated broadband infrastructure and access priorities into both the infrastructure and workforce/digital skills strategies. Additionally, with support from the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), Valley Vision manages the Strategic Broadband Corridors Project, a statewide effort to coordinate the network of broadband consortia with CalTrans to conduct joint use/dig once projects along priority corridors/highways.

Glenda Humiston (VP of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources), Trish Kelly (Managing Director of Valley Vision), and Sunne McPeak (President & CEO of CA Emerging Technology Fund) at the Broadband Policy Forum.

To get updates on the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium and the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion, subscribe to our broadband newsletter today!

Yzabelle Dela Cruz is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the Innovation & Infrastructure and 21st Century Workforce impact areas.

Valley Vision’s Trish Kelly also contributed to the writing of this blog.

A Strategic Approach to Connecting the Region

Valley Vision has led regional broadband access and deployment efforts in Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba Counties for several years now, but our involvement in a new and innovative statewide partnership is helping rural regions across California get connected, one transportation project at a time.

On October 17, the California Broadband Council (CBC) held its final meeting of 2019. Valley Vision’s Trish Kelly addressed the CBC on behalf of its Strategic Broadband Corridors (SBC) Task Force, to provide an update on the SBC Project, including its status, issues for consideration moving forward, and next steps.

The SBC Project was initiated in the Fall of 2018, at a Stakeholders Meeting on Strategic Corridors hosted by the California Department of Technology (CDT). At that meeting, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) highlighted its next steps in “Dig-Once” policy implementation, including the need to identify so-called “corridor gaps” — strategic corridors where no Internet service provider or public agency is prepared for installation of broadband infrastructure in alignment with construction of a transportation project. In response, Tom West — the Manager of the North Bay North Coast Broadband Consortium — volunteered for the 16-member Regional Broadband Consortia, funded by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), to develop a list of regional priorities and a statewide map for Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission (CTC). Thus, the Strategic Broadband Corridors Project was born, with the ultimate goal of engaging the Consortia to coordinate planning and development of broadband and transportation projects with Caltrans and the CTC.

As a follow-up to the initial Fall 2018 Stakeholders Meeting, the Consortia — including Valley Vision, which manages the Connected Capital Broadband Consortium — identified the SBCs in an initial draft report. While this was a promising first step, the report was overly broad, listing almost every major transportation corridor in California. Caltrans’ Chris Schmidt suggested that the Consortia further narrow the list by choosing three “priority” corridors per region. Valley Vision agreed to help coordinate these next steps, together with its partners — the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), the California Association of Councils of Government (CalCOG), California Forward (CaFWD), and CSU Chico. The CBC, the CPUC, other state agencies, and our congressional delegation – especially Congressman Garamendi and Congresswoman Matsui – all have been consistent champions for broadband infrastructure and very engaged since Fall 2018.

A scene from the post-Broadband Council meeting at The Gualco Group, Inc. on October 17

At the October 17 CBC meeting, Kelly provided updates on the delivery to Caltrans of the updated SBC report and maps with three “priority corridors” per region; results of the stakeholder meeting that took place in September, in which the Regional Consortia, CalCOG, the state agencies, and the internet service providers discussed issues and challenges in transportation policy and funding; and coordination with the Rural Transportation Planning Agencies (RTPAs). Kelly also highlighted the need for continued conversation around issues such as the regions’ eligibility for transportation funding to be used for broadband infrastructure deployment; the adoption of “Dig Once/Joint-Use” policies and planning; permitting challenges and variations across Caltrans districts; and overall funding availability/constraints with the CPUC.

After the meeting, partners, stakeholders, and representatives from state agencies gathered at The Gualco Group, Inc. to break bread and engage in dialogue on next steps towards digital equity. Bob Gore of the Gualco Group, Inc. spoke to the group about the importance of broadband to the Agriculture and Technology Development Roundtable; Bill Higgins of CalCOG gave a brief update of their work and expressed enthusiasm in further collaborating with partners; Susan Lovenburg of CaFWD spoke about the upcoming California Economic Summit in November and affirmed support for the draft Digital Equity for All document; and Sunne Wright McPeak of CETF expressed gratitude to all those present for their work in keeping the conversation going and pushing for continued progress, and to Stephanie Tom especially of the CBC for cultivating strong broadband partnerships and policy support. The event ended at sunset, against the beautiful backdrop of the State Capitol and Downtown Sacramento. It was a fitting conclusion to an afternoon spent recognizing the progress that had been made and, more importantly, gearing up for action in 2020.

SBC Project Next Steps and Issues for Consideration:

Caltrans committed to continue the process of updating and refining the list of strategic corridors, using input from CalCOG on transportation projects, and information from the CPUC on where fiber does or does not exist. Valley Vision will continue to work with CalCOG to facilitate coordination between Consortia across the state and the Rural Transportation Planning Agencies, with the goal of incorporating broadband infrastructure projects into forthcoming transportation projects and fostering “Dig-Once” and “Joint-Use” planning. SBC Project partners will be presenting their work to the California Economic Summit on November 7-8, 2019 to drive the agenda forward.

Valley Vision is working to ensure that urban and rural residents across the Sacramento region and the state have equitable access to information.

Issues that need to be elevated with the state by stakeholders include the role of broadband to achieve innovative mobility solutions for California’s regions; the challenges that Internet service providers face in the variable permitting processes across the Caltrans district offices; and the lack of federal funding for broadband infrastructure projects; among others. Persistent dialogue around these issues is critical, because better broadband infrastructure is indispensable for greater information and access to resources; improving the efficiency of the transportation system; and helping to meet the region’s greenhouse gas emission targets, through reductions in vehicle miles traveled.

Valley Vision’s Continued Work in Broadband:

Valley Vision recognizes that, notwithstanding California’s standing as the fifth largest economy in the world, poor connectivity persists throughout the Capital Region. In addition to its leadership role in the SBC Project, Valley Vision continues to advocate for the region’s connectivity through the management of other endeavors, such as the AgTech Pilot; the School-to-Home project; its policy work with numerous regional partners; and, most recently, working with the CPUC, the Federal Communications Commission, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the challenges that the state and the Regions face concerning eligibility for federal funding programs such as the new USDA ReConnect Program.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Isa Avanceña is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting the Board of Directors, and the Innovation & Infrastructure and Leadership and Civic Engagement impact areas.