Executive Summary

Since the adoption of the Digital Marin Strategic Plan by Marin County in February 2022, the broadband landscape for the residents of Marin has grown more troubling. New data confirms a digital divide still exists between served and underserved areas of Marin County, and exposes new, emerging digital divides due to technology, housing type, and location within and between communities and neighborhoods.

A digital divide exists on the type of technology available. Fiber offers symmetrical speeds: incoming video quality (download) and outgoing video quality (upload) are the same. Cable is asymmetrical, with slow upload speeds that hinder working and attending school remotely.

A digital divide exists for the type of home you live in. Even if you live in an area where fiber service is available next door or across the street, the home or community may not be served for fiber. Most apartment buildings and condominium units in Marin do not have access to fiber.

A digital divide exists on access, affordability, and options. Certain areas do not meet internet service providers (ISPs) qualifications for financial return on investment (ROI) formulas. Based on poor ROI, residents are not funded for fiber builds, and therefore can only get cable.

These problems with a digital divide are driven by the location and financial modeling behind building the underlying infrastructure. This infrastructure, which constitutes the metaphorical roadways upon which internet access travels, should not be built entirely based on various formulas generated for the pure purpose of turning a profit.

The solution to these problems: treating the fiber infrastructure as a public utility. Marin needs a municipal network open to multiple internet service providers (ISPs), serving all residents and businesses, thus ensuring equity and competition, and driving down prices for the end user.

With the wide release of federal and state funding for broadband planning, there has been a sharp rise in organizations, both public and private, jockeying to position themselves to receive the lion’s share of the capital funding to come. Navigating this broadband bonanza will require a focus on Marin leadership because obtaining Marin’s share of these upcoming funds represents an irresistible potential windfall for stakeholders inside and outside of Marin, leading them to all vie for the County’s attention by offering quick and easy solutions. For these reasons, it is imperative that leadership remains focused on plan execution.

Digital Marin has successfully secured funding to improve connectivity in unserved and underserved areas of the County. The deliverables laid out in the ensuing report will be essential to successfully obtaining additional state and federal broadband capital funding.

This Implementation Report details the progress made by Digital Marin in implementing the Strategic Plan. It also highlights Digital Marin’s essential need for the County to continue incubating the expertise and capacity necessary for it to mature and evolve into a Countywide operational solution. The actions outlined in this report will position Digital Marin to leverage all the opportunities available and result in the best possible outcomes for Marin County residents and businesses.

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