Government representatives, industry, and Newberry's delegation.

  Local Residents Lobby And Help  
  The State Recognize Newberry's  
  Fiber Optic Need  

Posted: May 17, 2023
Newberry Springs Community Alliance
by Ted Stimpfel

High-Speed Internet Is A Necessity

    I have been working with the Inland Empire Regional Broadband Consortium (IERBC) for over 10 years attempting to bring high-speed Internet service to Newberry Springs. My involvement has been working alongside Martha van Rooijen, Consortium Manager.

    The Consortium's turf includes all of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

    The people of Newberry Springs don't know of Van Rooijen but she has been a blessing to the community. She has been tirelessly working for us behind the scenes. At her invitations, I have traveled as far away as Los Angeles to speak before the PUC and others for high-speed broadband.

    While Van Rooijen has worked to keep the candle lit for Newberry, there have been two major hurdles, Frontier and no money.

    At this moment in time, both problems appear to have been resolved. Coming out of bankruptcy and the pandemic, Frontier has changed its poor business model for the better, it understands that to grow its customer base and survive, it needs to be competitive. Holding an exclusive landline market doesn't keep the growing satellite market and others out.

    As for the problem of no money, the federal government has allocated tens of billions of dollars to get homes and businesses in the U.S. hooked up to high-speed fiber-optic Internet. This is a one-time opportunity. Newberry needs to get with the program or lose it.

Left to right, Pastor Charles with his wife Gwen Patrick,
Paula Deel and Ron Beardshear listen to State
officials during the recent workshop at California
State University San Bernardino.

    The problem for Newberry Springs is its geographic size and sparseness of population. Newberry averages only 21 people per square mile. That makes cabling Newberry very expensive and unattractive for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). That can be overcome if Newberrians can get the State to contribute sufficient federal funds to Newberry for fiber optic cable deployment.

    The IERBC can influence some federal dollars for Newberry. But, the community itself needed to step up. That it did Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at Cal State U. San Bernardino. Truthfully, I felt proud of Newberry's delegation and how well each person performed.

    The meeting was a regional gathering of mostly public officials and local industry leaders contributing information that the State will be using in its application for its share of the federal money, and how that money will be spent.

    Representatives from the federal and state governments, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and a few large cities were there. Surprisingly, for the vast rural areas, ONLY Newberry Springs was smart enough to be there and Newberry definitely did make a positive impression.

    Upon arriving at the meeting, the facilitators didn't want the Newberry delegation sitting together, they wanted us to separately blend with the other tables, but I insisted differently. I wanted the delegation together for the roundtable discussions. This later proved beneficial as we lucked in having Rachelle Chong as our table's state moderator. Chong recorded our collective comments on her electronic tablet for later transfer to the State's federal application.

    Chong has an excellent memory, recognizing me from earlier meetings. I consider her a political heavyweight among the state's moderators facilitating the meeting. I was excited to have such a prominent person at our table. She will get our messaging across.

    There is a great pile of money that is being allocated to severely underserved, disadvantaged communities. Newberry definitely made its eligibility known. How that will translate into funding isn't known yet as we still have work to do, but the importance of what was accomplished at this workshop can't be understated.

    While we don't know yet if Frontier will be submitting a federal application to enhance Newberry with fiber, I believe that Frontier will. The delegation was able to speak with Steve Cosby, a Frontier representative, who will be getting back to the delegation with further information on Frontier's intent.

    While networking the meeting, I was approached by three other ISPs who expressed interest in providing enhanced Internet service to Newberry. With billions of federal dollars available, ISPs are smelling the money. If Frontier fails us, others might step forward.

    Besides the federal money for connecting fiber optics, there are also millions of dollars available for community organizations to provide outreach services to their residents. This includes such things as signing up residents for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) which is a $14-billion, long-term program to discount the service fees of ISPs.

    There are also funds for organizations to provide computer training and even free computers.

    Rose Beardshear and the Newberry Springs Chamber of Commerce are congratulated for spreading the word about this important 4-hour workshop.

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© 2023 Ted Stimpfel