Jack Ucciferri, runner-up to be the city council member representing Santa Barbara’s sixth district this past year, advocated for building fiber optic internet infrastructure in the city. Fiber optic networks serve 25 percent of the United States, providing far higher quality internet by using light instead of vibrations to transmit data. For the city of Santa Barbara, installation of fiber optic infrastructure is crucial — it’s the difference between job growth and stagnation.
Fiber optic cables are necessary for Santa Barbara to build because telecommunications company Cox currently has has a broadband monopoly in the city. Without external competition to pressure them into providing quality service, the company has the capability to drive prices up. They enforce a one terabyte data cap; the copper cables that their infrastructure uses can only manage 3,000 calls at a time to begin with, compared to the 31,000 call capacity of fiber optic.
Many Santa Barbara residents are self-employed or work remotely, relying upon quick internet speeds to connect them to their coworkers and keep them competitive at their workplaces.
Furthermore, education institutions and businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on internet functionality. Students are often issued homework assignments that must be completed online and most adults have jobs that are completed through the internet. Internet speed is no longer an issue of patience — fast internet is becoming a necessity.
Unfortunately, internet packages purchased from Cox do not regularly deliver residents these essential functions. There needs to be another option for internet to force prices down and internet quality up.
Installing fiber optic internet structure in the city will also improve the local job market. Santa Barbara has recently been attracting more tech companies, including Sonos, AD, Citrix, and Ontraport, which are headquartered in the city. When these tech companies migrate, they bring jobs with them. The jobs they bring provide stable employment, as the tech sector is experiencing explosive growth that shows no sign of easing up.
Broadband providers rarely take building fiber optic infrastructure into their own hands because it’s not viewed as economically worthwhile. However, when the city itself installs that infrastructure, high speed internet attracts more businesses. Chattanooga, Tennessee recently invested in a new fiber optic network, which their mayor credits with an influx of new businesses.
The primary critique of Jack Ucciferri’s proposal to inject this economic revitalization into Santa Barbara via fiber optic infrastructure is that it’s costly. However, although the initial costs of building the infrastructure could be fairly described as expensive, residents in the city of Santa Barbara would benefit overall because the price for internet packages will decrease substantially after the infrastructure is installed; competition will ensure prices are far lower than those currently set by Cox.
Cox will also be pressured to improve their services, lower their prices, or move out of the city if fiber optic internet packages are introduced to the market.
Additionally, using taxpayer money to install this infrastructure will serve residents, which aligns with the intended purpose of tax money. It would be difficult to find a resident that would be dissatisfied with job growth, enhanced workflow, and lower internet package prices.
Jack Ucciferri understood the future of Santa Barbara’s economic pulse. Implementation of fiber optic internet is a much needed investment in growth and consumer satisfaction for the city.