I’ve been pretty critical of our country’s broadband policies that have led to us falling further and further behind other nations that have properly seen telecommunications as a vital part of the modern infrastructure equal to roads, power and water. Some of this has just been lack of vision and drive to excel while the failure to hold telcos accountable for their failure to live up to commitments made in return for millions of dollars of government subsidy might be seen as corrupt and criminal.

But things appear to be changing at last. From the Federal government where the FCC is finally taking a serious look at broadband deployment, to Senate Democrat Jay Rockefeller’s non-binding resolution to bring 100 mb service to everyone, to a House Sub-Committee hearing on rural broadband, at least some focus and energy is being devoted to the issue. I am hopeful this increased focus will bring about real policy changes so that telcos and cable services will be forced to make higher levels of service available to more people at reasonable rates. This is just too important to economic survival and to safety and security to be left totally up to the free market.

At the State level, there is the Governor’s Broadband Task Force which has been set up to recommend policies and actions that will bring California’s telecommunications infrastructure to a level to be competitive in the global economy. As noted before there is some emphasis on covering the entire state, meaning rural areas, as well.

On a regional level, Redwood Coast Rural Action’s (a loosely knit organization of community leaders from Del Norte, Trinity, Humboldt and Mendocino Counties) Broadband Work Group is setting up a team that will produce a working model of telecommunications planning for the entire region. Details of what this group will produce are being hammered now, but there is a sense of urgency about this project and some serious money behind it. In general terms, the product should lay the groundwork for improved broadband services and deployment to even the smallest communities in the region. Our area has been chosen to serve as a model project because of the excellent advocacy and planning done over the years by individuals and groups such as RCRA and the Redwood Technology Consortium.

And finally, I have it from good sources that the alternate fiber running east-west through Humboldt and Trinity counties has traction. If those sources are correct, that new fiber could be completed by as early as this Fall. I am keeping my ear to the ground and fingers crossed on this. So if you see me on the street somewhere in that awkward  position, you’ll know why.