Today was the “official” launch of a new four county (Humboldt, Mendocino, Del Norte and Trinity) broadband initiative now being called Redwood Coast Connect. The folks leading and funding (to the tune of $500,00) the initiative held a press conference today at the new Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center next to the Adorni Center in Eureka. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to bring ubiquitous broadband to the four county region.

They plan to do this by gathering and aggregating broadband demand through a series of ‘town hall’ meetings and surveys intended to include individuals throughout the region. Another effort of the initiative is to work at the state and local level to iron out policies and regulations at the state and local government levels to make broadband deployment more efficient and cost effective.

The major players in this are the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) headed by Sunne Wright McPeak, Peter Pennekamp of the Humboldt Area Foundation and Rollin Richmond, Presidnt fo Humboldt State University. CETF contributed half of the $500,000. The other half was gathered from a combination of local organizations including HAF, and the McLean Foundation.

While the goal is widespread broadband deployment to all areas no matter how rural, Connie Stewart, representing Patty Berg’s office was quick make a disclaimer that this effort may work, but there are no assurances. Of course, there is great hope that the approach will prove a model that can be repeated elsewhere in rural California. Preliminary results of this effort will be presented at the next Broadband Forum scheduled for early June, 2008.

It should be noted that this initiative is not directly related to the ongoing effort to get alternate fiber connections built throughout the North Coast. Those efforts are being pursued by others although, there will certainly be overlaps in interest.

BTW, the new Aquatic Center is a great building. Check it out.