Panelists: Steve Blum, Brad Smith, Zach Friend, Tony Cricelli and Peggy Dolgenos.

  On January 29th, the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership proudly presented, Economic Summit Invent Your Future Here at the Embassy Suites in Seaside, CA. The event was a day full of productive and beneficial collaboration from individual members of communities that span through Santa Cruz all the way through Monterey, all of whom, had insightful ideas about how we can all move towards a future that will expand our technological, environmental and economical sphere.

  Amongst the many panels and guest presentations that incited a multitude of great conversations, was the topic of Getting to A Gigabit Everywhere. This panel focused on expanding high speed broadband to everyone. It was argued that broadband is the primary modern day source of communication and is becoming the same kind of necessity as the railroads were during the nineteenth century and as the water ports were in the centuries before. There has been a lot of excitement about the growing fiber-optic network but the challenge is making it more accessible to the public. There are currently few places on the Central Coast where fiber meets the state-wide average. A good start is the UCSC-led middle mile project that extends a fiber route from Santa Cruz all the way to Soledad.

  Cruzio Internet’s  CEO and co-founder, Peggy Dolgenos, was one of the five people who spoke on the panel. “I’m the luckiest person in the room,” Peggy explained, “because at work I get 10Gbps of Internet. I can do whatever I want. You would think eventually everyone’s going to want that.” The biggest challenge seems to be how to serve the whole county. Where do things need to be served? Zach Friend, Supervisor of District 2 in Santa Cruz County, who also spoke on the panel commented, “there’s no reason for every elected official in this room to not bring this up to your councils or boards.” A big theme in this conversation was encouraging the continued expansion of fiber broadband. “Let public officials know this is what you need and it’s important to you,” Peggy mentioned. “We’re ready to build and serve customers we just need to find a way to also serve the least economically viable of customers. Everyone needs to know this is important.” Brad Smith, Director of Research and Faculty Partnerships at UCSC added, “we have this great artery [middle mile project] that has incredible access, but we need to confront the struggle of completing the capillaries of construction.”

  Cruzio Internet, introduced as the largest independently owned ISP in the country, is already working to expand fiber throughout Santa Cruz County. When asked why only plan for a 1 Gbps fiber connection, why not plan for a 100 Gbps connection, Peggy answered, “that is fiber! It’s unlimited. Imagine if we could send all our information on the Internet right away and get responses within seconds. As an Internet company we know we will have to provide for any and all imaginable things.”

  The expansion of fiber broadband is happening now, and although there may be slight bumps in the road they will all be smoothed away as fiber begins to become more accessible to the general public. The conversation that came from Getting to A Gigabit Everywhere was as enriching as it was inspiring and has undoubtedly contributed to the ongoing and productive change to come.