GOLD COUNTRY BROADBAND CONSORTIUM (GCBC)​

The goal of the Gold Country Broadband Consortium (GCBC) is to increase digital access and use of broadband in designated counties in the Sierra Nevada: Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, and Sierra counties. We work with local governments, businesses, and community members within these counties to find solutions to affordable and reliable broadband.

About the GCBC

The Gold Country Broadband Consortium (GCBC) is one of 15 regional consortiums in California funded by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) California Advanced Services Fund Rural and Urban Regional Broadband Consortia grant program. The goal of this funding is to facilitate the deployment of broadband services by assisting the project development or grant application process or assisting broadband deployment projects related to programs created under SB 156 and Assembly Bill (AB) 164. GCBC was formed to leverage regional, state, and natural resources to launch public-private partnerships that will together improve and expand broadband access. 

Please reach out to project manager Kari Sinoff at ksinoff@sierrabusiness.org if you would like to set up a meeting or request support.

We’re launching a new broadband-specific newsletter for community members, jurisdictions & public agencies, and internet service providers to deliver timely project and funding updates to your inbox the moment we hear about them.”

Broadband News & Announcements:

Apply for Last-Mile Broadband Infrastructure Funding from the CPUC

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Federal Funding Account is now accepting applications for last-mile broadband infrastructure projects to connect unserved Californians with high-speed broadband services. The application window will close on September 29, 2023, at 4 p.m.

Applicants can apply through the CPUC’s Broadband Grant Portal.

The program will award grants to networks that provide reliable and affordable service to communities that need it most, particularly low-income and disadvantaged communities facing a growing digital divide. Networks must be built using fiber or cable technologies to provide modern speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload. The program encourages tribal and local government participation and reflects the State’s priority of bringing affordable service to all Californians. 

The CPUC will host a live webinar to help prospective applicants learn how to apply for funds through the Federal Funding Account on Thursday, July 6 at 10 a.m. If interested, please register for the webinar here.

Take Action:

California State Digital Equity Plan: Public Survey

Thank you to all who have taken and distributed the digital equity survey. Given the significant response and the ongoing outreach efforts of several entities, the state is extending the deadline to July 15, 2023.

The Digital Equity Survey is intended to identify the digital equity barriers and needs of California’s residents. The survey can be taken online or via mobile phone. It is accessible in 14 different languages and includes audio functionality for limited English proficiency and limited literacy residents. Please take a few moments to complete and share the survey and use the outreach toolkit to distribute.

Digital Equity EcoSystem Mapping (DEEM) Tool

The California Department of Technology (CDT) is creating a database of organizations across the state that promotes broadband accessibility, affordability, and adoption. The DEEM Tool is a way for organizations to provide information to uncover who, what, and where digital equity programs and services are being offered to understand gaps in support. 

As part of this effort, input is needed from ALL government agencies, nonprofits, experts, practitioners, funders, researchers, and community organizers. If your work helps people in our community access the internet, computers or digital skills training, or other information and resources, you should take part in this survey. If you have programs that support covered populations that could also support digital equity, you should complete this survey.

We are asking partners to map their digital equity work and to help develop an inventory of organizations, programs, funding, and other resources that are, or can be, leveraged to promote digital equity and support implementation of the Digital Equity Plan. Please take a moment to fill it out for your organization and encourage others in your network or community to do so as well. 


This information will help our state create a Digital Equity Plan that will support programs and resources to end the digital divide. Your organization will also be added to an inventory of entities committed to supporting digital equity initiatives across the State.

Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program

The Biden-Harris Administration announced it would allocate $1.86 billion in funding to California via the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. This allocation will support the CPUC’s efforts to build last-mile connections to unserved locations throughout California. 

The NTIA also issued a final BEAD Challenge Process Policy and model challenge process on Wednesday, June 28, providing states with additional guidance on how to design and conduct their BEAD challenge process, after soliciting and receiving comments from the CPUC and other stakeholders. The BEAD Challenge Process Policy and model challenge process are available to review here on NTIA’s website.

Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

The Affordable Connectivity Program is an FCC benefit program to help qualifying households afford the broadband. Eligible households can reduce their monthly internet bill up to $30 and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Residents can apply online at https://www.internetforallnow.org/ or call 1-888-920-2762 to reach a dedicated call center sponsored by CETF which provides one-on-one, over-the-phone support to help applicants apply for ACP benefits. Most eligible applicants are signed up and approved within 15 minutes. 

Check out the ACP tool kit where there are flyers and more information on how to help sign people up. The ACP dashboard can be found here to track enrollment in your county.

Closing the Digital Divide

Broadband access has evolved into a basic need for all, yet many Californians have struggled with access to broadband in rural regions for years. These pockets of “unserved” or “underserved” populations in California are missing out on what is now seen as an amenity critical to quality of life and the term “digital divide” refers to the growing challenges for rural residents who lack access to broadband. 

Throughout our rural regions, connecting to broadband in the least populated areas is often cost prohibitive for internet service providers (ISP) due to sparsely populated communities and topography challenges. The largest ISPs argue that a breakeven point, let alone a profitable point, is not possible in these more remote areas. Services to those addresses beyond that middle mile area to the sparsely populated “last mile” are often bypassed. Alternative methods of accessing the internet via satellite or other modes of transmission can be less than ideal. Services that are installed in rural areas are expensive and often poor quality, meaning download and upload speeds are slow and unreliable. Beyond the rural inaccessibility issue there are also issues with affordability for disadvantaged communities.

This divide has enormous consequences. Today, internet service is an imperative tool for our education, health, local economy, emergency plans, and beyond. 

Resources:

Broadband Best Practices: 

California Broadband Initiatives: 
Federal and State Funding Opportunites: 
  • Broadband, Equity, Acess, and Deployment Program (BEAD)
    • A program to get all Americans online by funding partnerships between states or territories, communities, and stakeholders to build infrastructure where we need it and increase adoption of high-speed internet. A funding pool of $1.9 billion will be administered by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
 
Links to individual County Broadband Webpages:

Closing the Digital Divide

Concerned about your internet speed? Take the Broadband Speedtest:

The data collected in this speed test helps us document the gaps in the California Broadband Coverage MapWhile the California Broadband Map may indicate your home or business is served, a speed test will determine if your connection does not meet the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) broadband definition of 6 Mbps Down and 1 Mbps Up. 

First: Click here to take the CalSPEED test. It is important you use this test because it will automatically report the information to the CPUC. 

Next: Record your results here. (Link coming soon)

If you’re having difficulty taking the test or you don’t have the ability to get internet service at your home you can notify the CPUC directly by filling out the form available here and mailing it to the CPUC. Directions are available on the form. 

Other News & Announcements:

SBC’s Gold Country Broadband Consortium Contract Renewed to Advance Rural Broadband Deployment

In January 2023, the California Public Utilities Commission awarded $565,000 to Sierra Business Council, on behalf of the Gold Country Broadband Consortium (GCBC) to support four rural counties in advancing broadband deployment.  

The GCBC program is funded through the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) Rural and Urban Regional Broadband Consortia Grant, as part of a $10.3 million award to support 15 regional broadband consortia across California for service over the next three to five years.

Consortia activities are designed to facilitate the deployment of critical broadband infrastructure in California and remove barriers to digital equity. Some of these activities include: 

  • Engaging with local, regional, and state stakeholders, and consumers to assess needs
  • Promoting broadband deployment, cost-saving strategies, and solutions
  • Assisting in correcting maps used to identify unserved areas
  • Identifying priority project areas
  • Assisting with project planning and permitting activities
  • Assisting with grant applications to unlock funding opportunities

Join Us In Creating A More Resilient Sierra.

To learn more about this program, contact: 

ksinoff@sierrabusiness.org
530.582.4800