When the pandemic forced thousands to work from home — for both business and school — large parts of Santa Barbara County found their spotty Internet service incredibly frustrating. The sudden influx of Internet users at home was more than the bandwidth could handle, resulting in poor Internet connectivity for entire regions. To identify the most affected areas, the Santa Barbara County Broadband Alliance wants residents to test their service.
The County Broadband Alliance launched an internet needs survey and speed-testing campaign last Tuesday. It asks the public to run a simple test and report their internet experience and speed at home, work and wherever they connect. The group plans to advocate for federal and state funding for better broadband internet, which is part of President Biden’s infrastructure bill for 2021.
Rural areas in the province experienced the worst of these connectivity problems, including the Santa Ynez Reservation. Sam Cohen, Government Affairs and Legal Officer for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, said the reservation had absolutely no internet. He believes that new fiber-optic infrastructure should be wired into every home on the reservation, or that wireless Internet should be beamed across the area so that tribesmen can gain Internet access—an increasingly necessary utility.
The Broadband Alliance is made up of several organizations such as the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast, and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. SBCAG spokesperson Lauren Bianchi Klemann emphasized that the goal of the Broadband Alliance is not to advocate for specific types of technology, but instead to increase infrastructure and affordability in the areas where internet access is not strong.
The test measures download and upload speeds in megabits per second or Mbps. The general rule of thumb is that anything at 100 Mbps or higher is considered “fast” internet because it can connect to multiple devices at once. The alliance’s current data to date shows that the worst connectivity exists in the northern part of the province, while the city of Santa Barbara has the largest.
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