Santa Barbara County is asking residents to complete an online survey and speed test to help identify areas of the county with poor internet connectivity.
The first phase of a project to improve Internet access in Santa Barbara County began on Tuesday. The goal of the project is to identify areas that need a better connection or to determine who has no connection at all.
Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne said the goal is to connect everyone.
“It basically became a utility that we should all have access to in a fair and equitable way,” she explained.
Whether your Internet connection is too slow or too expensive, Santa Barbara County wants to help connect those who need it. The program is funded by state and federal grants.
“We need to show that the funding that was set aside due to lack of service, we identified where it actually is because they have the numbers, but we don’t know where it actually is,” continued Osborne.
In order to obtain this data, the Broadband Alliance of Santa Barbara County was formed. Each city in Santa Barbara County as well as unincorporated areas came together to address the issue as one, instead of each city alone.
“What’s really important about this strategic plan is that it’s brought communities together so we can think regionally, so we can apply now,” said Lauren Bianchi Klemann, public information officer. for SBCAG.
The project relies on people at home. First, take the online speed test. This will let searchers know if your connection falls between blue, being the fastest, and black which is essentially a dead zone. Then there’s a survey you can answer anonymously that aims to understand specific needs and experiences with those services.
Right now, there are people all over the county struggling to stay connected. In a statement from Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, he explains the issues he has seen and experienced.
“When students across the Santa Ynez Valley transitioned to distance learning during the early days of the pandemic, it highlighted just how uneven our connections are and how important it is to have reliable high-speed Internet access,” Kahn said. “Professionals and students have found themselves in our rural part of the county with poor internet access, making it difficult to do business or connect with schools. Our tribe is partnering with EconAlliance and applying for grants federal funds to help make more broadband available in northern Santa Barbara County.
To take the test, go to the SBCAG website.
The deadline to take the internet speed test and survey is May 21.
The second phase of the plan will be a more targeted approach. Once they know the general areas that are having the most problems, they will contact the people there directly for more information.
People without internet can call SBCAG at (805) 961-8902 to report why they don’t have access.