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CENIC Recognizes Inland Empire Consortium for Pioneering Solutions to Expand Rural Internet Access


CENIC announces recipient of 2019 Innovations in Networking Award for Broadband Applications


La Mirada, CA & Berkeley, CA -- February 26, 2019 -- For pioneering broadband solutions and bringing high-speed Internet access to rural underserved communities, the Inland Empire Regional Broadband Consortium (IERBC) is being recognized with the CENIC 2019 Innovations in Networking Award for Broadband Applications.

Project leaders being recognized are: Martha van Rooijen, Inland Empire Regional Broadband Consortium; Steve Massa, City of Riverside; Jennifer Hilber, County of San Bernardino; and Tom Mullen II, County of Riverside.

Community leaders in the Inland Empire have made significant strides in providing Internet access to rural towns in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Implementing key strategies such as sharing best practices through regional councils of government, promoting “Smart Regions,” and supporting local government broadband projects have made IERBC a model for other broadband consortia to emulate.

For example, through initiatives such as RIVCOconnect, the county of Riverside has implemented policies and programs in hopes of developing broadband networks at affordable rates for all residents. “They’re trying to leverage and aggregate anchor institutions to make a business case for a group of providers to come and serve an entire county,” said Gladys Palpallatoc, associate vice president of the California Emerging Technology Fund, an organization dedicated to accelerating the deployment and adoption of broadband to unserved and underserved communities and populations. “They’re also looking at what the public needs, particularly for low-income communities, which typically get left out.”

A significant digital divide exists in the Inland Empire, where many residents are not able to access broadband Internet service. A vast region that spans roughly 27,000 square miles, the Inland Empire is home to more than 4 million people of varying income levels. Riverside and San Bernardino alone are the third most populous metropolitan areas in California. The Inland Empire encompasses urban, suburban, rural, mountain and desert interests, ranging from stylish Palm Springs to the desolate shores of the Salton Sea.

The need for a regional collaborative broadband strategy effort, as achieved by IERBC, is critical to overcoming barriers to Internet connectivity. IERBC is a group of stakeholders, including both the County of San Bernardino and the County of Riverside, regional government agencies, cities, nonprofits, health care providers, Internet service providers (ISP's), technology and engineering companies, K-12 schools, and universities.

IERBC fosters a culture of collaboration and digital inclusion. Because of IERBC’s farsighted planning and advocacy, rural underserved communities will be able to fully participate in the 21st-century economy and digital world, and all residents will have access to the information and tools they need to succeed.

“IERBC has spearheaded a great  diversity of broadband projects, and their audacious ambition is impressive,” noted CENIC President and CEO Louis Fox. “They strive to engage all stakeholders to accomplish their vision. There is great potential for IERBC and CENIC to continue to collaborate and ensure that broadband is universally available to IERBC communities.”

CETF President and CEO Sunne Wright McPeak commended CENIC for recognizing the diligent leadership of IERBC, which has been spearheaded by Martha van Rooijen since its formation with funding by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) from the California Advanced Services Fund. “IERBC has consistently convened all stakeholders to confer and collaborate on closing the digital divide in the Inland Empire and most recently is building upon the extensive work of Riverside County, led by Chief Data Officer Tom Mullen, to pursue broadband deployment throughout the region, engaging the expertise of several resources, including CENIC,” McPeak said. “IERBC is developing a model approach to helping the CPUC achieve the Legislature's goal of 98% broadband deployment in every region in California."

The CENIC Innovations in Networking Awards are presented each year at CENIC’s annual conference to highlight the exemplary innovations that leverage ultra-high bandwidth networking, particularly where those innovations have the potential to transform the ways in which instruction and research are conducted or where they further the deployment of broadband in underserved areas. The CENIC conference will be held March 18 – 20, 2019, in San Diego, California. California. Learn more and register to attend.

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