RSF Connect project goes to a vote

Rancho Santa Fe Association residents now have the opportunity to vote on a $13 million-$14 million investment to give the community one of the fastest and most reliable Internet networks not only in San Diego County but in the country. More importantly for some, it will simply provide the connectivity they have been lacking, they will finally be able to reliably work from home, enable their children to complete their homework or simply binge watch a show on Netflix.

Ballots were mailed Sept. 11 on RSF Connect, the Association’s project to bring 1-gigabit-per-second Internet service to all homeowners and businesses in the Covenant. Contingent upon the advisory vote, the Association will construct and own the 65-70-mile-long fiber backbone and contract with an Internet service provider to operate the network.

“Internet is a basic need, a basic utility, not a luxury,” the RSF Technology Committee has asserted. “We need the service to be cutting-edge, reliable, economical, future-proof and available to all homeowners and businesses — and we need it now.”

The advisory vote on the project will have a broader reach as every household in the Covenant will get one ballot, including condo owners. Voters have until Oct. 4 at 5 p.m. to return the ballots.

“Thousands of hours have gone into this project, it’s really a milestone for this community,” said RSF Association President Fred Wasserman, noting that the first fiber optic committee was formed back in 2011. “It’s taken us six years to get to this point. Members should feel comfortable that this project has gotten serious and considerable review.”

At its Sept. 7 meeting, RSF Association board members passed a resolution stating that they recommend members of the community “cast a yes vote to approve the project.”

“I hope that Association members will vote positively for it because it’s probably the most important thing to ever happen in the Association in terms of its future,” Wasserman said.

Wasserman said there are members of the community with no connectivity at all, some homes at the end of Zumaque have only two megabit service and others have spent nearly $50,000 to bring a connection to their homes. “This puts everyone on a level playing field,” Wasserman said.

If approved, the project could start in the first quarter of 2018, with an 18-24-month build timeline. As segments of the network are completed, service may become available prior to the completion of all construction. RSF Association Manager Bob Hall said that the engineers will decide which part of the Ranch will be completed first, although prioritization will be given to county roads with planned street improvements.

The voters’ package sent out on Sept. 11 includes the ballot as well as a detailed Voters’ Guide, with descriptions of the RSF Connect process to date, the technology, cost, financing and construction details. A town hall meeting will also be held on Sept. 14 at 5 p.m. at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club.

RSF resident Suzy Schaeffer complimented RSF Connect as being a better deal for the community than Hotwire’s fiber-to-home network proposal in 2016.

“This project is well thought-out and planned and, hopefully, well-received,” Schaeffer said.

While the RSF Association will construct and own the network, the RSF Association does not plan to become service providers. If the project is approved, the RSF Association will select an Internet service provider (ISP) that will serve the customers of RSF Connect in a central office in Rancho Santa Fe. The contract with the ISP will contain performance standards for network reliability, speed and customer service response times.

After taking into account the opinions of the RSF Golf Club Board of Governors and the Trails Committee, the Technology Committee recommended that the project’s central office be built on the unpaved upper golf course parking lot. The RSF Association board approved an architectural contract for the central office design at its Sept. 7 meeting and the office project will go through the Covenant Design Review Committee process.

According to RSF Association Treasurer Janet Danola, the cost of the project is estimated at $13 million-$14 million, which includes construction, engineering and legal costs. The RSF Association expects to fund the project with $8 million from the Covenant Enhancement Fund and bank financing for the remainder with a 10-year, fixed-rate, fully amortizing loan.

Danola said the board has set the rate structure for subscribers at $100 to $135 a month for 1-gigabit internet, $98 per month for up to 300 channels and $10 per line per month for telephone.

While the RSF Association will fund construction of the fiber network, homeowners will be responsible for the cost of bringing the fiber to their home. Homeowners will have options in regards to how the conduit is installed or extended and, according to the voter guide, the average cost in most cases should be $6.25 per linear foot. In addition to the cost of installation, the service provider will charge a one-time connection fee of $250, which will be waived if a homeowner signs a three-year service agreement.

Tech Committee member and RSF Association board member Rick Sapp said there has been a lot of misinformation and speculation out in the community on the project, coming from outside sources whose commercial interests may not be aligned with RSF Association members.

“I encourage everyone to read the voter guide…The facts and figures are the facts and figures, regarding the cost and capabilities,” Sapp said.

“Get your information from the source,” Hall said, also encouraging that people read the voter guide material and contact the Association with any questions. “Become educated and cast your vote.”

More information is available at rsfconnect.com

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