Technology Infrastructure Committee is prepared to make major recommendations

Over the past six months, you have been reading about the RSF Association board’s commitment to improve technology infrastructure. Finally, concrete steps are being taken toward reality!

First, we can report that improvements are being made in the wireless area to improve cellphone service. AT&T has begun installing antennas on the building across from the Post Office, and Verizon has begun searching for locations throughout the Covenant to install beautifully camouflaged antennas. We hope to realize improved cell coverage over the next several months.

Second, and even more important, we have an update on what is being planned in the area of broadband to improve the speed and reliability of our Internet connections. Our board is ready to start taking action on a major fiber-optic installation project.

In late 2014, an in-depth feasibility study for building a community-owned fiber-optic network infrastructure for the Covenant was performed by Magellan Advisors, with funding provided by private residents of RSFA (Rancho Santa Fe Association).

On Feb. 27, Magellan President John Honker presented the findings of the study to the ad hoc Technology Infrastructure Committee.

The study focused on four key issues:

• Technical specifications;

• Related cost considerations;

• Community sentiment;

• Revenue potential and payback.

An online and offline survey of RSFA residents was conducted to help determine the community appetite and financial viability of building a network. The following results were noteworthy:

• Of 1,700 homes, more than 500 total responses;

• 97 percent of residents have Internet at home;

• 80 percent of residents believe broadband Internet is critical;

• On a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the best), residents rate their services at a 1.9;

• 48 percent have home-based businesses and Internet is critical.

Magellan recommended that RSFA build the entire fiber-optic network, including the fiber connections all the way to the home. By building and owning the core network, RSFA can maintain control of its technological infrastructure.

Among other benefits, having this control would allow RSFA to: 1) keep the network “open” to competing providers; 2) lease the network to other potential users, including cellphone tower companies and utility “smart-grid” providers; and 3) keep the power to update, modernize, and/or expand the network, rather than leave those activities to the discretion of a major service provider’s bottom line.

Magellan also recommended, however, that RSFA not be in the business of providing the actual services in the home. Instead, by contracting with any number of service providers, RSFA would transfer the responsibility to service providers for customer service and “in-home” equipment such as modems and routers.

Throughout the process, the members who funded the study instructed Magellan to use very conservative estimates for both costs and potential revenues. Magellan performed a comprehensive analysis of the cost considerations for the build-out, financing, and management of the network. Although the initial analysis did not include any additional avenues for revenue, it would be reasonable to assume that RSFA could also lease access to the network to other providers, including cell tower companies, security companies, rapid response services, utility companies (smart grids, for example), and other potential companies that rely on new technology. These additional revenue streams would have the potential to be significant to RSFA.

Magellan concluded that the viability of a community-owned fiber-optic network is extremely good and that any necessary investment would be recovered in a relatively short time frame. The network would take approximately 18 months to two years from start to completion.

At the March 5 meeting, the entire RSFA board will review the study and hear the recommendations of the Technology Infrastructure Committee.

On another topic: On March 3, the Nominating Committee will be interviewing candidates who have volunteered to run for the RSFA board this spring. The committee will be announcing the candidates’ names by March 16.

These are exciting times. Stay tuned for the next update.