Everyone has experienced the frustration of slow and unreliable internet. Local residents and businesses rely on good, quality internet for crucial services like telehealth appointments, online goods and services, and remaining connected with loved ones near and far. In this day and age, the internet is increasingly regarded by many as a “fourth utility”—as essential to the modern home as electric, gas, and water. Broadband providers can be local telephone companies, cable companies, wireless or satellite companies, or electrical utilities.

With 26 square miles, the City of Atascadero is geographically the largest city in the County. We have a spaghetti map of roadways and power lines that make it challenging for internet service providers to connect high-speed internet to every business and home in our community.   It’s pretty easy to see how necessary high-speed internet has become for everyday activities such as checking out at the grocery store, finding directions to a local business, or even paying your bills. The faster, more reliable, and more affordable internet is for our businesses and residents, the more competitive we can be as a community. Not only do we need to provide resources to retain our community members and be sure they have access to great jobs and afford to live in Atascadero, we need to retain our current businesses, help them expand if they like, and remain competitive to bring new companies and jobs to town.

The City of Atascadero is currently pursuing ways to improve reliability and lower the cost of high-speed internet for all.  It’s no easy task, but our City Council has prioritized broadband infrastructure and our planning efforts are underway.

This fall, the City of Atascadero and Paso Robles teamed up for the North County Broadband Strategic Plan project, aiming for completion in March 2023. This project will help us better understand internet availability and strength in our community. Once we know where the gaps are, we can plan for the different ways to close those gaps. Having a strategic plan will also make our two cities eligible to apply for funding allocated through the State Broadband for All Funding and the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, among other sources. We’re off to a great start as Atascadero and Paso Robles were just awarded a $200,000 grant to cover the cost of our assessment and planning efforts. Once we improve our understanding of internet availability throughout Atascadero and have our plans in place, we can begin applying for infrastructure funding to bring our broadband projects to life.

As a critical part of the gap analysis, the City of Atascadero is conducting an internet assessment and speed test survey to better understand how current internet services are working all over town. Every business and resident is encouraged to go to pcbroadband.org/needsassessment to self-report their internet needs and take a speed test on a personal computer or laptop at home, work, or wherever they connect.  Residents without internet access can go to the library to take the needs assessment test on a public computer. Data collected can be anonymous and will include location, internet speed, and monthly internet cost. Information collected will be mapped and used to identify areas in our region with low or no access to high-speed internet. This is a critically important first step towards improving internet access for all and we would greatly appreciate your time on this five-minute survey. Thank you for helping us better serve you!

As always, if you have any questions about the City of Atascadero, feel free to email me at rrickard@atascadero.org.

City Manager, Rachelle Rickard

Rachelle Rickard is a native of California and a nearly 30 year resident of Atascadero. She graduated with a business degree from California Polytechnic (Cal Poly) State University in San Luis Obispo. In February 1997, She took a job as the Accountant with the City of Atascadero and was promoted to the position of Director of Administrative Services. At the time of her appointment to the position of Administrative Services Director for the City of Atascadero, she was the youngest person ever appointed to that role; she was also the first female Department Head ever appointed within the City. Rachelle Rickard was appointed to the position of City Manager of the City of Atascadero in June, 2013.