Ending the era of Digital Redlining: What could it mean to have high speed internet to every home on the mountain?

By Patric Hedlund, TME

Paulin Paris’ voice was disappointed when he called from their historic cabin on Frazier Mountain, to say his family was returning to Los Angeles because his son, who had grown up loving being in the forest, could not receive a good internet signal here.

Homeowners in the Pine Mountain Club POA signed petitions to ask their board to continue Zoomcasting its monthly meetings after covid quarantine was over. Several elected district boards are using that hybrid option.

Logical use of broadband technology tools to get doctors’ test results, counseling sessions, or government hearings are now expected.

“Why should we be expected to make a 100 mile round trip to Bakersfield at $6 a gallon for gas to attend a county supervisors meeting?” we ask. People do not agree they should be arbitrarily barred from participating fully in public meetings if they attend virtually. College students, school districts, teachers, business managers and entrepreneurs all have the same vision.

Young people who grew up in this rural area want to come back to raise their families. They could do that and bring their jobs with them—if they had rock-solid, dependable, high-speed broadband that is affordable.

Realtors often look a little uncomfortable when customers ask about that. Some areas of this mountain don’t even have cell phone service. Others do, but with spotty service that is getting worse at times.

Digital Redlining

Whether we call it our Electronic Appalachia or Digital Redlining, the Digital Divide creates disadvantages for those who are underserved and live in rural areas. Lack of access to robust, dependable and affordable high-speed broadband creates a handicap to talented people of this area who want to become leaders in economic development.

All those online retail start-ups, news nuts, marketers, teachers, mental health and medical providers joined entertainment content producers buzzing about the need to build out the high speed broadband network to all sectors of California, to all neighborhoods, to all residents, no matter their income level.

Digital Equity Cash Bucket

Now a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Frazier Mountain Communities—to all homes in all of our villages—may be opening. Money is beginning to flow from the Digital Equity Act Funds of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) this month.

The San Joaquin Valley Regional Broadband Consortium has been helping communities like ours to get positioned to apply for funding. Kern County’s director of information technology is in Monterey at a conference on the subject as we write this report. A letter of interest from our community is being solicited by the Broadband Consortium (SJVRBC), due by June 6.

Here is a link to the California Broadband For All initiative.

The Mountain Communities Family Resource Center held a zoom meeting May 26 that discussed putting together a letter of interest in which all organizations on the mountain are urged to participate. El Tejon Unified School District said they will help. All other local schools are also invited.

The Mountain Enterprise has provided background information to local Internet Service Providers and public service organizations to help mobilize the discussions locally.

Community partners need to invite contractors to join them in the application effort.

Dale Vose of DR Internet has expressed an interest. Scott Rosen of Frazier Mountain Internet said he will probably pass. A Zito Media representative called The Mountain Enterprise Monday, May 23 to say the company is so excited about what is happening with the infrastructure bill funding that they are putting together a special department to sort out which grants, in which areas, they will pursue.

Check www.MountainEnterprise.com for updates. And if you  want to be involved in this effort, please write EditorATMountainEnterprise.com [but replace AT with @, right?]

Photo captions:

Marisa Wood (left), candidate for Congress in District 20, met with Frazier Park and Pine Mountain Club voters Saturday, May 21. One topic was how broadband internet for all can make telehealth affordable from every home, boost educational options, retain real estate values and provide economic opportunity here.

The San Joaquin Valley Regional Broadband Consortium, coordinated by Francis “Frank” Gornick held a zoom Q and A session May 20.

DR Internet and The Mountain Enterprise participated in the call.
Now school district and public service agencies are being asked to join in. Zito Media has also taken an interest in learning more.

Money from the first bucket of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act could help boost economic development in the Mountain Communities, making it possible to retain good-paying work-from-home jobs here. The community is working together to write a letter of interest to submit by June 6.

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This is part of the June 3, 2022 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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