Comcast wanted $210,000 for Internet—so this man helped expand a co-op fiber ISP

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

Los Altos Hills Community Fiber

Sasha Zbrozek lives in Los Altos Hills, California, which he describes as “a wealthy Silicon Valley town,” in a home about 5 miles from Google’s headquarters. But after shifting in December 2019, Zbrozek says he discovered that Comcast by no means wired his home—regardless of beforehand telling him it may supply Internet service on the tackle.

Today, Zbrozek is on the board of a co-op ISP known as Los Altos Hills Community Fiber (LAHCF), which gives multi-gigabit fiber Internet to dozens of properties and has a plan to serve tons of extra. Town residents have been capable of type the ISP with the assistance of Next Level Networks, which is not a conventional client broadband supplier however a firm that builds and manages networks for native teams.

Zbrozek’s expertise with Comcast led to him getting concerned with LAHCF and organizing an growth 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.

“Before I bought my home, I checked with Comcast—by phone—to see if service was available at the address. They said yes. After moving in, I called to buy service. The technician came out and left a note saying that service was not available,” he informed us.

Want 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 was clear that Comcast was serving the neighborhood, so he known as the cable firm to search out out if he may get Internet 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 might need to add a drop from the pole to your house, but, you know, otherwise it’s no big deal.”
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Instead of it being no large deal, Zbrozek mentioned it took over a yr to get Comcast to inform him how a lot it might 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 wanted Zbrozek to pay $300 per foot to trench cable throughout about 700 toes, based on a February 2021 electronic mail from Los Altos Hills’ public works director that Zbrozek shared with Ars.

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

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

Sasha Zbrozek in a 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 point between my property and a (now former) neighbor with Comcast who would’ve let me do some private trenching is about 40 feet,” Zbrozek informed Ars. However, Comcast would not permit that sort of property-to-property connection.

“The spirit of the franchise agreement [between Comcast and Los Altos Hills] is that I’m supposed to be able to get service because I’m on a public road, but in practice that just wasn’t the case,” he mentioned. Before getting fiber service, Zbrozek and his spouse, Stella, made do by “tethering to a cell phone. I just got an unlimited plan and plugged my cell phone into a home router and called it a day,” he mentioned.

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