Comcast wished $210,000 for Web—so this man helped develop a co-op fiber ISP


Enlarge / Fiber conduits being put in for Los Altos Hills Group Fiber.

Los Altos Hills Group Fiber

Sasha Zbrozek lives in Los Altos Hills, California, which he describes as “a rich Silicon Valley city,” in a home about 5 miles from Google’s headquarters. However after transferring in December 2019, Zbrozek says he realized that Comcast by no means wired his home—regardless of beforehand telling him it may provide Web service on the tackle.

At this time, Zbrozek is on the board of a co-op ISP known as Los Altos Hills Group Fiber (LAHCF), which offers multi-gigabit fiber Web to dozens of properties and has a plan to serve a whole lot extra. City residents had been in a position to type the ISP with the assistance of Subsequent Degree Networks, which is not a standard client broadband supplier however an organization that builds and manages networks for native teams.

Zbrozek’s expertise with Comcast led to him getting concerned with LAHCF and organizing an enlargement that introduced 10Gbps symmetrical fiber to his home and others on close by roads. Zbrozek described his expertise to Ars in a cellphone interview and in emails.

“Earlier than I purchased my dwelling, I checked with Comcast—by cellphone—to see if service was accessible on the tackle. They mentioned sure. After transferring in, I known as to purchase service. The technician got here out and left a be aware saying that service was not accessible,” he advised us.

Need Comcast? That’ll be $210,000

There are 5 parcels that neighbor Zbrozek’s property, and three of them have Comcast service, he mentioned. Comcast’s on-line availability checker indicated—accurately, because it turned out—that the home he was shopping for did not have service. But it surely was clear that Comcast was serving the neighborhood, so he known as the cable firm to seek out out if he may get Web entry.

Zbrozek recalled a Comcast agent telling him the earlier residents of the home he was shopping for by no means signed up for service and that “we would want so as to add a drop from the pole to your home, however, , in any other case it is no huge deal.”

As a substitute of it being no huge deal, Zbrozek mentioned it took over a 12 months to get Comcast to inform him how a lot it could cost for a line extension to his home. Zbrozek finally needed to attain out to the Los Altos Hills city authorities to get a worth quote from Comcast.

The reply was $210,000. Comcast wished Zbrozek to pay $300 per foot to trench cable throughout about 700 ft, in accordance with a February 2021 electronic mail from Los Altos Hills’ public works director that Zbrozek shared with Ars.

Whereas Zbrozek had calculated a distance of 167 ft from his property to the closest pole with Comcast wires, he mentioned Comcast advised him the home was too removed from the pole to legally present above-ground service. Los Altos Hills requires underground set up typically.

Sasha Zbrozek in a picture taken around the time he began canvassing neighbors about installing fiber.

Sasha Zbrozek in an image taken across the time he started canvassing neighbors about putting in fiber.

Zbrozek additionally proposed connecting to Comcast by operating a line to a neighbor’s property that had Comcast service. “The closest level between my property and a (now former) neighbor with Comcast who would’ve let me do some non-public trenching is about 40 ft,” Zbrozek advised Ars. Nevertheless, Comcast does not enable that sort of property-to-property connection.

“The spirit of the franchise settlement [between Comcast and Los Altos Hills] is that I am supposed to have the ability to get service as a result of I am on a public highway, however in observe that simply wasn’t the case,” he mentioned. Earlier than getting fiber service, Zbrozek and his spouse, Stella, made do by “tethering to a cellular phone. I simply received a vast plan and plugged my cellular phone into a house router and known as it a day,” he mentioned.

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