A group of Rancho Santa Fe residents submitted a memorandum to the Association stating that they have funded a feasibility study which will address the financial viability of building a complete fiber-optic network. This group includes Fred Luddy, Eoin O’Shea, and Todd Mikles.
In the memorandum, the group says:
“Our research indicates that ownership by Rancho Santa Fe as opposed to contracting with a major service provider will be more cost-effective and future proof. The Study will include a comprehensive overview of the project.”
This feasibility study is being conducted at no cost to the Association. The group of RSF residents signed an agreement with the consulting firm Magellan Advisors, which has an impressive list of small and large municipalities they have helped in planning the installation of fiber-optic networks.
Among Magellan’s projects in California are the cities of Riverside, Davis, West Sacramento, Woodland, and the County of Yolo. They have done several projects in the states of Florida, Texas, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Vermont, Ohio, and Washington.
They plan to have the study completed and presented to the RSF HOA before January 2015.
In September, the Association hosted a retreat, which included a discussion with local leaders in the tech industry and service providers. Cox, AT&T, and Time Warner were in attendance and Qualcomm presented ideas to improve wireless coverage. Association Manager Ivan Holler stated that he would be meeting with several service providers to obtain proposals for improving the Ranch’s tech infrastructure. Holler said at the Association’s October meeting that AT&T submitted a proposal, but did not disclose the details as other providers were in the process of submitting their own.
An article published by the New York Times on Oct. 30, 2014 titled “Why the US Has Fallen Behind in Internet Speed and Affordability” says that a lack of competition is driving up prices. The fastest internet in the US can be found in cities like Chattanooga, Kansas City, and Lafayette, which all have a city-run network and offer affordable prices.
In the article, Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu says, “The average market has one or two serious Internet providers, and they set their prices at monopoly or duopoly pricing.”
The group of residents funding the study for a community owned network stated:
“Considering the long-term financial and technological impact this important decision will have on the community, we recommend that the HOA await the results of this Study prior to making any significant financial commitments towards other options.”
The funders of the study state that they have no personal financial interest in Magellan Advisors or vested commercial interest in the outcome.
A proposal from Cox in 2012 would have cost $12 million, but the Association would not own the infrastructure itself.
Should RSF HOA or its community members build the infrastructure themselves, the network could be leased to companies to provide Internet service or create cellular nodes. A fiber-optic network is the most reliable source for high-speed Internet and can serve as backhaul for cellular coverage around the Ranch. Some see this option as a way to solve two problems at once, all on the community’s own terms.