Survey results: Association urged to improve Rancho Santa Fe’s internet service

Residents felt free to express themselves on a recent internet service survey conducted by the Rancho Santa Fe Association Technology Committee, many requesting that the Association get up to speed and bring faster internet to the Covenant to allow for a better quality of life.

Read one survey comment: “I’m almost 75 but I consider reliable digital and cell service to be a necessity not a luxury.”

“This is the greatest need and number one priority for the Ranch,” read another. “Having lived here 25 years it has been terrible.”

Interim RSF Association Manager Christy Whalen presented the results of the technology survey at the board’s Dec. 1 meeting. There were 730 participants in the seven-question online survey, conducted between Oct. 27 and Nov. 15. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they are not satisfied with the internet speeds, however, 88 percent said they are interested in improved internet service in the Ranch.

“We have not gathered the type of information that we gathered in this survey,” Whalen said, noting a survey a few years ago didn’t allow them to accurately assess what’s going on in the Covenant regarding service the way this new survey did. “We received a lot of comments, which was great information for us. Some of the comments were very appreciative of the survey but we also had some people who are clearly impatient.”

“I feel very let down by the RSF Association,” read one comment. “It has taken them forever to get their act together and bring us high-speed internet services and here we are still at the survey stage.”

“We definitely felt among some members a bit of impatience with the process,” Whalen said.

According to those surveyed, 98 percent have internet service in their homes and most people (477) receive service from AT&T. Fifty-four people have service with AT&T Wireless, 49 from Orion, 34 have Satellite, 26 have Verizon, 22 have San Diego Broadband, 21 have Cox, 19 have “other” and 13 are with Time Warner Cable.

By gathering information on service providers, Whalen said they were able to do an overlay map of service speeds in the Covenant and find what carriers provide the highest level of service.

Per the survey, those 13 Time Warner customers had the highest satisfaction with both speed and cost. Overall, 55 percent of the respondents said they were comfortable with the cost of their service.

Many respondents took the time to vent about their poor service and about how it is the “biggest downside” to living in Rancho Santa Fe.

“Our internet connection is not much better than the dial-up networks from the 1990s,” wrote one resident. “Our download speeds are so slow that we can’t enjoy Apple TV or stream Netflix on our TVs. Internet is such a horrific embarrassment in this portion of the Ranch.”

Residents complained that their children cannot do their homework and to perform any kind of business or normal computer activities they have to drive to another location.

“The lack of high speed internet is a huge negative for the community and will no doubt impact valuations,” a comment read. “Many people work from home at least some of the time, lack of reasonable internet speeds impacts their ability to do that.”

The survey also asked about cell service in the Covenant. Of the respondents, 53 percent said they were not satisfied with their cell phone service yet 76 percent said they were interested in a better cell phone service.

There were 12 percent who were not interested in improving internet service and some comments relayed that they do not want their homeowner’s Association to be involved financially. Comments stated that the community has other needs such as tree replacement, recycled water and road repairs—“Don’t spend money on the few that have a problem,” a comment read.

Of the comments, 42 urged the Association to move quickly.

“We had 18 ‘please’s, 12 ‘ASAP’s and 27 exclamation points in those 42 comments. One comment was ‘please, please, please, FAST, FAST, FAST service quickly’,” Whalen said.

Other comments expressed concerns about the cost, particularly of fiber to home, and provided suggestions for the committee on project options.

Comments also included process criticism and there were 22 thank you’s to the technology committee—“My favorite comment was someone said, ‘Godspeed to the committee’,” Whalen said.

Tech committee chair Rick Sapp said the tech committee has been making progress after the Association decided not to move forward with the fiber-optic network with Hotwire. Sapp said they have been having conversations with all of the large providers and trying to understand their approach to service levels and their plans, if any, to provide better service and “the extent to which they need encouragement to think about the Ranch as a priority.”

Sapp said the committee is also staying informed on ever-changing technology to ensure that they find the most “robust, reliable and cost-effective” solution for the community.

“We want to get the best outcome for everybody. But it’s fairly clear that this technology is essential to the 21st Century American home,” Sapp said.

Cox Communications told the committee that studies show that high speed internet can contribute between seven to nine percent of a home’s value. Sapp noted an Association investment in improving technology is a fraction of the value it represents to people’s future ability to buy homes in the Covenant and to live here comfortably.

“This is the only real priority this board has going,” President Fred Wasserman said. “We’re committed to this project and we’re going to get it done and we’re going to get it done right. This is extremely important to this community.”