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Addressing the digital divide on the Central and South Coast

Internet Access and Affordability Community Forums are Underway in Santa Barbara County
Caroline Feraday
Internet Access and Affordability Community Forums are Underway in Santa Barbara County

Community forums are underway to tackle the issue in Santa Barbara County.

The digital divide in Santa Barbara County is being addressed in a series of community forums, in April and May.

Lauren Bianchi Klemann from Santa Barbara County Association of Governments told KCLU, it’s needed to inform funding decisions for projects that can increase affordable access.

"In December 2020, Governor Newsom signed historic legislation called Broadband For All. That was the State's commitment and it came with funding to bring affordable access to high speed internet access to all of California," said Bianchi Klenmann. "If we are going to get funding for infrastructure or for projects in our county, we have to understand where the needs are."

The community forums will take place in each of the eight cities and unincorporated areas in Santa Barbara County.

The forums will discuss the Broadband Strategic Plan efforts and include a panel conversation of leaders from community organizations, businesses, schools, non-profits who are also from the community.

The series of community forums kicked-off on April 14 in the City of Lompoc.

Affordable access was identified as a major need. This need to find solutions to quality, affordable internet has been compared to a statewide system for free and reduced lunch.

The schedule for upcoming community forums is available on the broadband webpage for SBCAG at and listed below.

  • Santa Maria – 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 26 at Shepard Hall, Santa Maria Public Library, 421 S. McClelland, Santa Maria. *Program in English, simultaneous interpretation in English and Spanish
  • Santa Ynez – 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 27 at Community Services District, 1070 Faraday, Santa Ynez
  • Guadalupe – 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 4, Guadalupe City Council Chambers, 918 Obispo St., Guadalupe. *Program in English with simultaneous interpretation in English and Spanish
  • Guadalupe – 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 11, Guadalupe City Council Chambers, 918 Obispo St., Guadalupe. *Program in Spanish, with simultaneous interpretation in English and Spanish
  • Orcutt – 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 18, Lakeview Elementary Multi-Use Room, 3700 Orcutt Road, Orcutt
  • Buellton – 5:30 p.m., Thursday, May 19, Valley Elementary, 595 2nd Street, Buellton
  • Solvang – 5:30 p.m., Thursday, May 26, Solvang City Hall, 1644 Oak Street, Solvang

Those unable to attend an in-person forum are encouraged to self-report their internet needs and take a speed test on a personal computer or laptop at home, work, or wherever they connect by May 31 at . The Broadband survey and speed test is available in English and Spanish.

Individuals can also identify areas with low or no service, or where access to the internet is unaffordable within this test. Those without internet access can call SBCAG at 1-805-961-8902 to report why they do not have internet access.

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022 and 2023.

Since joining the station she's won 7 Golden Mike Awards, 4 Los Angeles Press Club Awards and 2 National Arts & Entertainment Awards.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for ten years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.