Plan to build fiber optic network in Rancho Santa Fe moving toward community vote

A plan to build a fiber optic network to bring high-speed internet service to Rancho Santa Fe is moving forward, with Rancho Santa Fe Association officials looking toward August to hold a community-wide vote on the issue.

At its meeting on Thursday, July 6, the RSF Association board voted unanimously to appoint three members – board President Fred Wasserman, Director Rick Sapp and Treasurer Janet Danola – to a subcommittee to prepare ballot and educational materials for the community, working with Association staff.

Sapp, who also co-chairs the Association’s technology committee, which is heading up the project, said July 6 that progress is continuing on a number of fronts. The committee has reached a conclusion on an internet service provider for the project, but the choice won’t be revealed until negotiations with the provider are completed, Sapp said.

The technology committee is also working on refining cost estimates for the project, and working with the County of San Diego to gain permission to use county roads and right-of-way for underground fiber optic cable.

The plan is to bury some 60 miles of fiber optic cable throughout the Rancho Santa Fe community as a backbone for the new internet service, and individual homeowners will have the option of connecting to the network and paying for the service.

“Those (talks) are progressing,” Sapp said of the discussions with county officials. “There’s a lot of detail. It takes time to get all the boxes checked.”

As proposed, the fiber optic system would be built, maintained and owned by the Association, and have the capacity to provide residents with internet access at a speed of 1 gigabit per second, or about 125 times the average home internet speed in California, according to information provided by the technology committee.

The new system will provide internet, telephone and video streaming service, as well as be available for security systems, said Wasserman at the July 6 meeting. In the future, the network may also be used to improve cellular telephone service, he said.

“We’ll probably be the most connected community in the state by the time this is operational,” Wasserman said.

Construction will take between 18 and 30 months, Wasserman said, “but it’ll move fast.”

As envisioned, “micro trenches” that are 1 to 4 inches wide would be dug in the community’s roads, the fiber optic cable would be laid in the trenches, and another machine would come right after to fill the trenches.

Sapp said the machines can cover as much as three-fourths of a mile per day.

The RSF Connect project will provide the main fiber optic lines through the streets, while the internet service provider and residents will work together to connect homes to the system.

“The homeowner will be deciding how they want it done on their property,” Sapp said.

In June, the board decided to hold a community-wide vote on the project, meaning that one ballot will be sent to each Covenant property, including condominiums.

Information such as cost breakdowns will be included in the ballot materials, officials said. The subcommittee appointed July 6 will be working to get those materials ready.

“This will help us be teed up to move to an efficient election process,” said RSF Association Manager Bob Hall.

Wasserman said July 6 he is optimistic that the project will move forward.

“This is the biggest, most important project this community has ever undertaken,” Wasserman said.

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