A group of Rancho Santa Fe residents have circulated a petition asking Covenant members to sign in support of putting a less expensive version of the Hotwire Fiber project to a public vote. The petition was created in response to the Association Board’s recent decision to abandon a Letter Of Intent (LOI) that had been signed with Hotwire Communications in May.
The petition outlines three points:
- For the Association to pay up to $8 million from its Community Enhancement Fund to install fiber cable to every street (“curbside”) within the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant;
- For the Association to offer a choice between either 1 gigabit or 10 gigabit Internet service, as originally negotiated with Hotwire; and
- For each resident or business, at their sole option, to pay for connection from their curbside.
John Ryan, an original member of the Technology Committee and coauthor of the Fiber Feasibility Survey, is leading the petition drive effort. He told the RSF Post that, “Many Rancho Santa Fe residents including myself were disappointed to see the deal with Hotwire terminated by the current board. Thousands of Association dollars and countless hours went into due diligence. The community deserves the chance to be heard.”
The LOI originally contemplated a total expense of $13.5 million for a complete fiber network, including connection to the interior of each electing home. Ryan noted that if each homeowner were financially responsible for the cost of connection from their curbside, a savings of $5 - $6 million would be possible and that this change would reduce the total project cost to $7 - $8 million.
Ryan said, “Delivering fiber service to the curbside would allow all homeowners and businesses in RSF the option of paying for their own connection to either 1 gigabit (billion bits per second) or 10 gigabit Internet service.”
Ryan remarked that the economics of the Hotwire business deal would be destroyed by offering lower-speed Internet service of 25 megabits (million bits per second) without the Association’s offering a substantial subsidy, which he felt was unlikely.
According to Jason Barry of Barry Estates, RSF real estate prices should rise sharply with improved communication infrastructure. Barry stated that RSF home prices are under pressure from the surrounding communities with better Internet, mobile & TV offerings.
Barry estimated that with high-speed Internet service, home values would increase by 5 to 10 percent. He noted, “The average home in the Ranch is worth about $3 million, so fiber availability would raise the value of each home by $150 to $300 thousand. Since there are about 1,700 homes in the Ranch, the total valuation would increase by several hundred million dollars or more. Making Rancho Santa Fe a gigabit community looks like a pretty good deal to me.”
The LOI stated that a finalized deal would be put to Covenant members for a vote. This vote now appears to be in jeopardy. While the board has elected to withdraw from the agreement struck earlier this year, the next step in improving Rancho Santa Fe’s tech infrastructure remains to be seen.
Read the full petition here.