Community forums assessing internet access, affordability taking place across Santa Barbara County

Community forums assessing internet access, affordability taking place across Santa Barbara County

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SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – Santa Barbara County residents can share their experiences with internet speed and cost through a series of community forums taking place across the county that look into internet access and affordability in the community.

The forums are connected to an effort being led by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) to develop a countywide Broadband Strategic Plan.

The plan is intended to gain a better understanding of internet availability and affordability for Santa Barbara County residents, and then use that understanding to guide funding decisions for projects that can increase access to high-speed internet in order to work toward a more digitally-inclusive county, according to SBCAG spokeswoman Lauren Bianchi Klemann.

The forums will discuss the Broadband Strategic Plan and include panel conversations with community leaders, businesses, schools, and non-profits, Bianchi Klemann said.

The events kicked off in April and will continue in each of the eight county cities and unincorporated areas through the first week of June.

Information from the first three forums in April focused on access and affordability, Bianchi Klemann said, giving an example of how some existing free or low-cost programs do not meet the current “speed of life” needed for participating in remote learning or telehealth.

“Others called for the need for training, especially for parents and seniors,” Bianchi Klemann said of past community forums.

“In talking about innovation and infrastructure, Lompoc panelist and Assistant Superintendent of Lompoc Unified School District Bree Valla spoke about their infrastructure needs to make the ‘magic happen’ for families during the pandemic by saying that ‘we are not just talking about the last mile , we are talking about the final feet.’”

Click here for a schedule of upcoming community forums.

For those unable to attend a forum in person can self-report their internet needs by completing this survey before May 31. The survey is available in English and Spanish.

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