This week, Greg Norton, RCRC President and CEO, spoke to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) about the challenges related to connecting rural Californians to high-speed broadband, along with the ongoing consequences accompanying communities that try to subsist in these “Digital Deserts.”  The CDFA Board invited several speakers and subject-matter experts present information and updates about the current state of broadband in rural California, and potential actions and opportunities to bring broadband service to businesses, agricultural producers and households in these regions.  

Mr. Norton addressed RCRC’s perspective on what has led to the rural digital divide, the inherent challenges associated with unserved and underserved communities, RCRC’s policy, advocacy, and economic development efforts, and potential opportunities to help drive more deployment into rural counties and regions throughout the state.

“RCRC’s perspective is that high-speed broadband must be considered as a critical piece of infrastructure – similar to reliable transportation systems, public safety resources, and utilities such as electricity, water and sanitation services.  Further, it is imperative that service is provided at the ‘speed of commerce’ if small to medium-sized business are to compete, let alone attract industry and economic development opportunities in these communities,” said Mr. Norton.  

Mr. Norton also shared potential policy and financing recommendations to encourage private investment in rural broadband infrastructure deployment.

Additional speakers included representatives from the USDA, Aubrey Bettencourt from the Farm Service Agency and Robert Tse from Rural Development, California Public Utilities Commissioner, Martha Guzman Aceves, Sam Bloch from the New Food Economy, Kaleigh Rogers from Motherboard Vice Magazine, Sunne Wright McPeak from the California Emerging Technology Fund and Robert Gore from Ag Tech Roundtable.