When the pandemic forced thousands of people to work from home — both for business and school — vast swaths of Santa Barbara County found their spotty internet service incredibly frustrating. The sudden influx of home internet users was more than bandwidth could handle, resulting in poor internet connectivity for entire regions. To identify the worst-affected areas, the Broadband Alliance of Santa Barbara County wants residents to test their service.
Last Tuesday, the county’s Broadband Alliance launched an Internet needs assessment survey and speed testing campaign. It asks the public to take a simple test and report their internet experience and speed at home, work and wherever they connect. The group intends to advocate for federal and state funding for better broadband internet, which is part of President Biden’s 2021 infrastructure bill.
Rural areas of the county have seen the worst of these connectivity issues, including the Santa Ynez Reservation. Sam Cohen, government and legal affairs manager for the Santa Ynez Chumash Indian Band, said the reservation has absolutely no internet service. He believes that new fiber optic infrastructure should be wired into every home on the reservation, or that wireless internet should radiate throughout the area so that tribesmen have access to the internet – an increasingly utilitarian no longer necessary.
The Broadband Alliance is made up of various organizations, such as the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), the Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast, and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. SBCAG spokeswoman Lauren Bianchi Klemann stressed that the Broadband Alliance’s goal is not to champion specific types of technology, but rather to increase infrastructure and affordability in areas where internet access is not strong.
The test measures upload and download speeds in megabits per second or Mbps. The general rule of thumb is that anything 25 Mbps or higher is considered “fast” Internet service, and 100 Mbps for broadband because it can connect to multiple devices at once. Current data from the alliance so far indicates that the worst connectivity exists in the northern part of the county, while the city of Santa Barbara has the largest.
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