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Danville gets a 'C+' in broadband access

Three other Contra Costa cities get 'A' score

Danville, San Ramon and much of the rest of Contra Costa County get a "C+" when it comes to broadband access, something that's becoming increasingly important as more and more of everyday life requires Internet access.

That's according to Linda Best of the East Bay Broadband Consortium. Best told the San Ramon City Council recently that broadband access helps attract new business and creates new jobs.

She said high-speed residential broadband access is essential.

"It's what we us to do all the things we do emails, on the web, music, vid movies, conferences, etc.," Best said. "We're hearing constantly now about the new Common Core standards that are being implemented across the nation and this is highly dependent upon students and families and districts having access to adequate broadband."

She said in California, about 25% of people don't have access to high-speed Internet at home. Contra Costa County fares better, with about 17.4% without access. But Best said the consortium is taking action to help bridge the digital divide.

"We're working with a nonprofit in Oakland," Best said. The consortium, she said, is offering an affordable broadband subscription for less than $10 a month, a free computer, computer literacy training and a year of free tech support.

The consortium is refurbishing donated computers to give away in Alameda County, and the working to do the same in Contra Costa County.

For businesses, Best said, the score is slightly above California Public Utilities Commission minimums, and there are gaps in coverage, despite increasing demand.

Business broadband fares better in San Ramon. Best said she knows of at least one business that used broadband access as a key factor in deciding to move the city.

She said businesses having high speed broadband could make a difference of $1.8 million to the state economy over the next 10 years.

"It's absolutely essential to maintain and increase our economic competitiveness. As yr probably aware, many of the growing sectors in our economy are highly dependent on technology," Best told city council.

To get an "A," a city must have two competing providers advertising maximum download speeds of at least 25 megabytes per second (Mps) and maximum upload speeds of at least 6 Mps.

To get a "B" competing providers would have to offer at least 10 Mps for downloads and 6 Mps for uploads, and for a "C," an area would need competing providers, with one offering speeds of 10 Mps and downloads and 6 Mps for uploads and another offering at least 6 Mps for downloads and 1.5 for uploads, the CPUC's minimum standards.

Best said Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill and Concord all score an "A."

Best is suggesting that cities become more broadband-friendly by, among other things, include a broadband element in their general plans.

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