As you may know, the Rancho Santa Fe Association, an HOA that covers approximately 2,000 homes, built RSF Connect, a gigabit fiber optic network for Internet connectivity available to all members. There are dozens of small communities adjacent to this HOA (which is often called the Covenant referencing the incorporation/governing document) who do not have access to this network. This map, prepared by First American Title shows these communities.
Can RSF Connect Be Extended
A question I’ve frequently received from people outside the Covenant is whether or not RSF Connect can be extended to service them. From a technical perspective, there is no reason why it cannot. From a policy perspective the RSF Association has so far decided that the network will be exclusively for Covenant members.
The RSF Association paid for the $20M construction of the fiber network and owns it outright. Financing is partially from HOA member dues, and partially through a $65/month customer usage surcharge. It is expected that the member dues and surcharge will last about ten more years at which point the construction bank loan should be paid off.
Since HOA members have paid for its construction, it wouldn’t make sense to provide carriage on the fiber network to non HOA members without significant compensation (on the order of the $10,000 per household cost of the network). While you could easily envision a cost recovery mechanism for non Covenant households, the Association does not want to entertain such a possibility a couple of reasons. First, it is mission creep for an HOA to provide services to non HOA members resulting in potential legal ramifications. Second, like the Rancho Santa Fe golf course, which only Covenant members can join, RSF Connect is another desirable reason to live in the Covenant enhancing all member’s property values.
One possibility that some individual houses and smaller HOAs have considered is to request annexation into Rancho Santa Fe. This would work if annexation would be granted. But the Association has strict guidelines for allowing annexation including minimum lot sizes, house aesthetics and size, etc. Annexation has occurred from time to time through the years, but only when specific criteria are met.
Other Current Options
Some larger communities are adequately served by cable or telco companies. For instance, Cox recently did a major upgrade of their network in Fairbanks Ranch to deliver near gigabit Internet service. However there are several smaller communities that do not have adequate broadband service. I’ve listed a number of alternate Internet service providers on my personal page. One I’d like to highlight is San Diego Broadband. If you have line of sight to Black Mountain or the mountain top in San Marcos (even from your rooftop), then they will install a small dish and give you broadband Internet wirelessly. This is how I got my Internet at 30 Mbps before I connected to the fiber network.
Savior From Space
In about a year, Elon Musk’s SpaceX will start gigabit broadband service from satellites through a service called Starlink. Current satellite broadband services (like Viasat Internet) are usually the last resort for high speed Internet since the speeds aren’t very good, they have data caps, and their latency is really high, at least 500 ms, making web browsing a chore.
Starlink promises to be different. With a huge constellation of low earth orbit satellites, latency will be down in the 30 ms range and will have much higher bandwidth. While a hardwired connection will still likely be superior (price/bandwidth/latency), this should be a decent service for those with no other good options. Baring rocket explosions (always a possibility), this service should be available in the southern US sometime next year.
Solana Beach and Encinitas
By the way, construction started in January 2020 in Solana Beach on a city wide gigabit fiber network that will be available to all residents and businesses later this year. Ting Internet is the service provider and you can pre-order service now. While it hasn’t been announced yet, Encinitas will likely follow next year.
There, now you know as much as I do about alternative Internet access methods. Questions? Please ask using our contact form, or start a discussion in our community discussion forums.