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'This is really the beginning' | Placer County approves $2.2 million project to expand internet access in Auburn, Penryn

About 1,500 residents and businesses in Auburn, North Auburn and Penryn will be affected.

PLACER COUNTY, Calif. — The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved a project to expand internet access in rural areas at a recent meeting.

These services will aid about 1,500 residents and businesses in Auburn, North Auburn and Penryn.

“The lack of reliable internet services for Placer residents can be a safety concern, especially for our rural communities,” said District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson at their Oct. 12 meeting. “It is vital we advocate for our residents and assist in improving access to reliable internet services locally and throughout the state.”

The board is awarding Wave Broadband a $500,000 grant to complete the $2.2 million project. 

"One of the challenges we alluded to before — the biggest struggle has been the rural-ness of our communities and the rocky terrain that's there. This is something we've been fighting, battling for a long time and without our investment ultimately some of these things wouldn't come forward," Dieter Wittenberg, the Information Technology Manager for Placer County said at the meeting.

A broadband survey in fall 2020, helped the board determine where they needed to expand internet access.

“The county has been tirelessly advocating for the expansion and improvement of broadband services on behalf of its residents, especially those in our rural communities,” said Placer County Chief Information Officer Jarrett Thiessen in a statement. 

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Placer County will send out its annual survey on internet satisfaction later in October. The county uses the data to decide future infrastructure grants. Gustafson said she was also concerned about other communities that have issues with internet access.

Jane Christenson, the assistant county executive officer, said the county has CARES money, and money from the American Rescue Act set aside to work on future projects.

"Placer County's efforts in the broadband arena are far from over," Christenson said.

Thiessen said at the meeting that future proposals serving specific communities in Placer County are in the works and that the county would likely have to contribute more funding for these types of projects.

Placer County is also working on a broadband strategic plan for the county in a partnership with Sierra Business Council and plans to bring it back to the board in December.

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