Officials warn Silicon Valley needs major cabling upgrade for monetization of wired, wireless broadband, plus power utilities

April 16, 2015
“California is riding into the 21st century on the back of the Pony Express,” charges Micah Weinberg, president of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

As recorded by David R. Baker for the SFGate, a new governmental report warns that California’s systems for moving data and delivering energy will need major upgrades to keep the state's economy competitive in upcoming years.

“California is riding into the 21st century on the back of the Pony Express,” charges Micah Weinberg, president of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the research arm of the council's formal business and public policy group tasked with studying issues important to the region’s economy.

The institute's latest report, issued this week, focuses on two kinds of infrastructure that the report argues aren’t evolving as fast as needed. In sum, the report warns that if California wants to maintain its leadership role in the tech industry, the state must find ways to increase broadband coverage, both wired and wireless. Similarly, as California increases its use of renewable power, the report asserts that state's electricity grid must necessarily improve, adding flexibility and intelligence.

As summarized in Baker's story for SFGate, the institute's report recommends that "cities could let communications companies string fiber-optic cable through publicly owned utility conduits — underground pathways for water and sewer lines, for example — rather than forcing the companies to dig their own trenches. The companies would save on a major expense, while the cities could collect fees for access. And the presence of fast, reliable Internet service would help attract Web businesses."

“Every day we hear about new products and services coming out of the technology sector, and the sheer speed at which that’s happening requires additional agility at the state level,” opined Rufus Jeffris, vice president of communications for the Bay Area Council. “This is not so much an indictment. It’s a road map for how we stay ahead.”

The report also urges California to drop or change a regulation that requires telecommunications companies to maintain their old, copper-wire analog networks, even if more modern technologies could fulfill the same roles.

“Thinking about broadband as an economic engine — we’re seeing that more,” commented Jeff Bellisario, a senior research associate at the institute and one of the report’s authors. “Cities are more and more realizing there’s an opportunity to help their residents, not just with faster service but attracting businesses as well.”

“We’re seeing a blurring of the lines between telephone, cable and the Internet, but we still have the same telecommunications regulations that we had decades ago,” Bellisario added.

Full story: To keep tech humming, CA needs wiring upgrade, report says (

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