Goleta Participates in Internet Needs Forum

City of Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte alongside several community leaders and stakeholders underscored the importance of broadband access during a Broadband Community Forum in May at the City Council Chambers.

The community forum featured opening remarks from Mayor Perotte, and panelists included Danny Fitzgibbons, Founder, Equalitech; Lori Lander Goodman, Executive Director for Isla Vista Youth Projects; Mark Ingalls, General & Property Manager, Camino Real Marketplace; Kristen Miller, President and CEO of the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce; David Penn, Encina Royale Retirement Community resident; Conrad Tedeschi, Assistant Superintendent of Fiscal Services, Goleta Union School District; and Nancy Tillie, COO/CFO of Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.

“The COVID-19 pandemic really highlighted how many people do not have access to fast, reliable and affordable internet,” Mayor Paula Perotte said in her opening remarks “this countywide effort will aim to bring high-speed Internet access to all homes, schools, libraries, businesses, in Goleta.”

Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, working with the Broadband Consortium Pacific Coast, EconAlliance, REACH, regional economic development organizations, cities, the County and others, is developing a countywide broadband strategic plan in 2022 to help cities better understand the broadband internet needs such as speed and affordability for residents and businesses.

The forum provided the opportunity to discuss the challenges many locals face to stay connected in order to meet day-to-day needs from everything to a child’s school experience to running a business or using lifesaving medical devices.

Much of the discussion centered around common themes being heard countywide such as digital literacy, access to devices and basic infrastructure for reliability and innovation. Participants discussed the role of libraries for digital literacy and the feasibility to connect Goleta Union Elementary schools through a network of fiber to provide secure and reliable internet access.

“When the internet goes out or is unreliable it can cause crisis for parents and staff trying to communicate with the families we all serve” said Lori Lander Goodman of Isla Vista Youth Projects.

Others also talked about the reliability for health care services, “When the internet is slow, all of our work to support meetings comes to a screeching halt,” said Nancy Tillie, COO/CFO Neighborhood Clinics. “We want all of our patients to have better internet access for telehealth because we know that health care access is made better when you can remove the barrier of transportation.”

In Goleta, Mayor Perotte has been a strong advocate for closing the digital divide and providing all members of the community with reliable and affordable internet access that “helps students, individuals, businesses and start-ups, even local government become more effective and productive.”

“Adults have learned to cope without digital literacy” said Conrad Tedeschi, of the Goleta Union School District. “They can cope, but now we know how that it will be helpful to their quality of life. Without digital literacy, these adults are excluded from a lot of things in our community.”

In 2021, SBCAG along with the cities of Goleta, Buellton, Carpinteria, Guadalupe, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria Solvang, County of Santa Barbara, and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians began working on the countywide plan largely in response to Governor Newsom’s Broadband for All initiative launched that same year to advance the State’s commitment to bring affordable access to high-speed internet service across California.

Those unable to attend an in-person forum are encouraged to self-report their internet needs and take a speed test on a personal computer or laptop at home, work, or wherever they connect by July 1 (extended date) at www.sbcag.org/broadband. The Broadband survey and speed test is available in English and Spanish.

Individuals can also identify areas with low or no service, or where access to the internet is unaffordable within this test. Those without internet access can call SBCAG at 1-805-961-8902 to report why they do not have internet access.

The Broadband Strategic Plan team will present an update on their efforts to the Goleta City Council at a future meeting and release a draft of the plan in early fall with the expectation to finalize the plan by the end of 2022. Those interested in staying information can sign up for news updates at www.sbcag.org/broadband.

Broadband Community Forum Panel; pictured left-to-right: Nancy Tillie (Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics), Lori Lander Goodman, (Isla Vista Youth Projects), Danny Fitzgibbons (Equalitech), Kristen Miller (Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce), Mark Ingalls (Camino Real Marketplace), David Penn (Encina Royale Retirement Community) Conrad Tedeschi (Goleta Union School District), Joan Hartmann (3rd District Supervisor) and Maria Kelly (Broadband Consortium Pacific Coast)