On October 3, the cities of Atascadero and Paso Robles announced a new collaborative project to provide better Internet access for North County businesses and residents.
The North County Broadband Strategic Plan Project is the result of a partnership between Paso Mayor Steve Martin and Atascadero Mayor Heather Moreno.
“One of the things we’ve discovered over the years and experience is that the broader the interest in a project, the more likely it is to get attention [for] Funding,” said Martin. “Given our geographic proximity and historical connection, we thought joining forces would be the most effective way to pursue a broadband access strategy for our constituents.”
The two cities signed a memorandum of understanding in May that set the ball rolling for the selection of a contractor. By September, the City of Atascadero had signed a $200,000 contract with consulting firm TeleWorx to develop the strategic broadband plan.
“Teleworx will be reaching out to us with options on how to proceed and fill these gaps, as there are many different ways to do this,” Moreno said. “So we’re really looking forward to their expertise and to helping us refine a few different options that are viable for us.”
The strategic plan is due to be completed by March 2023, which will then provide cities with a basis for figuring out what needs to be done and what types of grants to apply for. Loreli Cappel, associate director for economic and community development at Atascadero, said the two cities recently filed a joint application with the Local Area Technical Assistance Program through the California Public Utilities Commission.
“So if we’re successful we’ll compensate ourselves for this process, although we’ve already allocated funds, then we can use those funds to move forward with some of our other projects or achieve a higher level of design detail, or use it for those.” implementation and laying fiber optics in the ground, whatever that looks like,” Cappel said.
While the strategic plan is still a work in progress, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any projects currently underway. Prior to the partnership, Martin said Paso Robles had already applied for and received a $3 million grant to expand broadband services on the west side of the city.
“With our economic development efforts at Paso Robles Airport, we have resurfaced a major road up there and routed a conduit for future fiber optic cable installation. We have already installed some fiber optic cables in that area,” said Martin. “And then we’ll be wiring or the developers will be wiring the big housing projects east of the city so the homes can be fiber optic enabled when those services come online.”
While the partnership is only between Atascadero and Paso Robles for now, both mayors said they are open to future partnerships with neighboring cities.
“We’re really starting to see ourselves more as a region than individual cities, and we’re stronger together than individually,” Martin said. “As such, we are actively exploring ways in which we can work together and provide greater benefits to the people who live in both our communities and indeed in the unincorporated areas of North County.”