Surfnet Pursues FFA Last Mile Grant for Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Counties
In an ongoing commitment to bridging the digital gap in the rural regions of Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay Counties, Surfnet has recently pursued the Federal Fiber Access (FFA) Last Mile Grant, administered by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
According to the CPUC website, it is a $2 billion grant program for last-mile broadband infrastructure projects to connect unserved Californians. With $5 million allocated per county, the grant aims to boost connectivity in underserved counties throughout the state, providing a much-needed digital lifeline to communities that have long been left behind in the digital age.
“The FFA grant is for the people left outside the big cities,” said Ken Nye, Surfnet COO. “Surfnet is trying to fill that gap and reach the person in the last mile.”
Surfnet seeks $18 million from the grant to deploy fiber optic networks in underserved counties, improving internet accessibility and driving economic development.
“There were 13 applications we submitted across four counties, and the total request was $18 million,” said Jessica Engle, Surfnet’s grant writer.
By October 13th, 2023, the FFA had received 484 grant applications for the grant window that closed on September 29, 2023. An application was received for every county in the state, with a total of more than $4.6 billion in requests!
“Surfnet will be winning some of the points other applicants won’t because of the fact that each project is partnering with a nonprofit that will own the infrastructure that is built,” Engle stated.
“The partnership in Monterey County is with Loaves Fishes and Computers,” Engle shared.
Loaves Fishes and Computers is a nonprofit that empowers individuals to reach their full potential by providing low-cost computers and computer literacy classes to local low-income families and individuals.
“This partnership model is new and super cool,” Engle said.
According to the CPUC website, they received an extraordinary amount of interest in the program, which indicates an opportunity to accelerate new high-speed broadband infrastructure across the state.
Surfnet’s bid for the FFA grant, in collaboration with nonprofits like Loaves Fishes and Computers, is a promising step towards closing the digital gap in Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay Counties.