Rancho Santa Fe Association board approves fiber-optic engineering study

The Rancho Santa Fe Association continues to move forward in building its own high-speed fiber-optic network, considered the most important initiative on the board’s agenda this year.

At the April 6 RSF Association board meeting, the board approved a $168,832 expenditure for an engineering design study. The three-month process is expected to produce a permit-ready design, according to Rick Sapp, chair of the Tech Committee.

The vendor for the network design was selected in a closed session meeting on April 6, but the name had not been released as of press time. A letter will be sent to the membership with the details.

To select the vendor, Sapp said a request for proposals went out to bid and they received four proposals. Each vendor was interviewed and the final vendor was selected.

The committee has also approached firms about internet service to find a vendor to deliver services over the network. Once the Association receives the design, the construction contract can be finalized to build the network.

The committee is aiming for a community-wide vote on the cost of the fiber network by May. If approved by a community vote, the construction of the network would take about 18 to 24 months.

“We will be the most connected community in San Diego County for sure,” RSF Association President Fred Wasserman said.

During public comment, resident Suzy Schaefer said she had Orion Broadband come and walk the route the fiber would take to her home. She said she was told it was “costly” and that the claim that everyone in the Ranch would be able to get this service is “not factual.”

Sapp disagreed, saying that the philosophy of the network is for it to be a “community asset” that provides equal service to every member of the Association.

“We are going to do our level best to get the fiber backbone as close as possible access to homes,” Sapp said.

Sapp said individual homeowners will have to pay to connect to the 1 gigabit network, which could be up to 1,000 times better than the service they have existing today. Whether or not they want to participate is a choice, but the plan is for each homeowner to have the option to connect to better service which will help not just with quality of life but property values.

The design of the network is simple — a highly reliable, low-maintenance and very secure network, about 65 miles of conduit and fiber optic cable, passing every house on public streets.

The approved engineering study will help determine the cost and will provide detailed engineering and construction drawings for the planned network. Wasserman said the analysis on the project will be thorough and very open. The next steps would be to go out to bid to build the network and to put the entire project to a community vote.

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