|COMMUNITIES, BUSINESSES BENEFIT FROM EXPANDED BROADBAND|
|, Jan 01, 2014
Softcom Internet Communications, Inc. began providing dial-up internet service to southern Sacramento and San Joaquin Counties over 20 years ago. For many years the business was strong, but as technologies advanced telephone and cable companies began to offer high-speed internet and many of Softcom's customers made the switch. Without a customer base, Softcom couldn't qualify for a conventional loan to make upgrades to their systems and offer high-speed internet.
USDA Rural Development assisted Softcom through the Broadband Initiatives Program, made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Softcom received a $1,689,710 loan and $5,069,125 grant to upgrade and modernize their infrastructure, and deploy wireless internet access equipment across 14 towers spread over about 378 square miles.
Softcom completed the project in July 2013 and now about 6,000 homes, 4,300 businesses and 5 anchor institutions have access to enhanced high-speed internet. As a result of increased demand, Softcom has hired ten new employees. Many local businesses are benefitting from the improved broadband service, and even local law enforcement has used the new equipment in emergency situations. Area wineries can better monitor weather that may affect their vineyards and offer on-line sales of their wines. As well, nearby dairies can track their herds and anaerobic digester systems better. They are also paying a far lower cost, generally saving more than $350 per month for superior service. Another unintended benefit came when Softcom leased the city's water tower for their equipment; funds have been used to start a grant program for local nonprofits and awards are already making a difference in the community.