Rancho Santa Fe Association board aims to ink fiber-optic deal by March

The Rancho Santa Fe Association board is getting closer to signing a deal to bring better broadband connectivity to the community through a fiber-optic network.

At the Jan. 7 Association meeting, board member Philip Wilkinson said the technology committee will complete negotiation of a detailed term sheet with two bidders in February with the hope for the Association board to award the project to the best vendor by March.

Pre-construction activity is expected to take three to nine months depending on permitting and the construction will take 12 to 15 months.

Wilkinson said the tech committee has made a lot of progress since beginning work in 2014. Wilkinson said the committee did its due diligence, “exhausting a number of the major providers”— Rancho Santa Fe faced challenges in that the major providers were only looking to build in high-density areas. Major providers were also asking that Rancho Santa Fe pay to build the infrastructure — basically paying for them to expand their business — without the Association maintaining control or the revenue sharing benefit.

In February 2015, the committee began exploring alternative options such as Rancho Santa Fe building and owning the infrastructure in a partnership with a provider. This partnership allows Rancho Santa Fe control over the network and a sharing of the revenue.

Once the estimated $15 million project is paid off, Wilkinson said the Association could expect to see a huge cash flow.

After putting the broadband project out for a request for proposals and qualifications (RFPQ) in September 2015, the committee received 11 responses and narrowed it down to the final two providers (the negotiating stages are confidential).

In December the committee drafted the term sheet to enter final negotiations, which includes important points on ownership control warranties and revenues.

“We’re excited about the Rancho Santa Fe project because it’s really unique and innovative approach to building fiber-optic infrastructure,” RSF Association consultant Chad Peace of Peace & Shea said, noting many in the industry are looking to this deal as it could represent the future.

The project is expected to not only improve connectivity that is sorely lacking and upgrade an outdated infrastructure, but also to immediately increase home values in the community, Peace said. The network is anticipated to be “future-proof,” not locked into any proprietary system and built to facilitate 10 gigabytes.

“(The tech committee’s) agenda is to get the best deal for the Association that we can possibly get and to have the best service we can possibly get,” said Kim Eggleston, a member of the tech committee

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