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POSITIONS

BROADBAND ACCESS FOR ALL

Lack of affordable and efficient broadband internet service in much of Mendocino County is not just an inconvenience, but a real deterrent to our economic vitality and competitiveness.

Our rugged region is underserved because federal regulation did not require large telecommunication companies to average costs and serve everyone in their vast areas. Given this reality we need to work together to achieve county-wide internet access, an effort that will be enhanced by recent stimulus funding and the Obama administration's goal of broadband for all.

High speed internet can be provided by several different technologies: fiber-optic, DSL over phone lines, cable, satellite, and wireless. For many of us the quickest and best path will be through AT&T's renewed commitment to extend its existing fiber optic lines. For very rural residents, satellite is the only current option, but it is relatively expensive and involves undesirable time delays and download limits. Wireless broadband has been proposed for these underserved or unserved residents. However, many citizens are concerned with the negative health effects of long term microwave exposure, should a nationwide provider offer this service. A local entity such as a private business, a municipality or a service district could potentially be a provider, but this would be a major undertaking.

In a perfect world, all our communities would be served by fiber optic lines--clean, contained and extremely fast--reaching each population cluster and looping back to the 101 corridor. Subsidiary fiber would extend into the rural areas. Copper phone line can accommodate broadband traffic up to two miles from such nodes.

In the real world, active organizations such as the Mendocino Coast Broadband Alliance have been the best advocates for change. I will work to support these groups and keep up the pressure on existing large service providers to reach even our most remote residents.