After this article was originally published, I spoke directly with Brandt about how difficult this would be for me to do in Lucas. He very encouraging, shared the software he used to help plan it. He also put me in contact with the team he works at with AT&T to talk about running fiber. It was as he said, a great low cost solution to build once you get fiber to your location.
When I asked about the initial bandwidth to buy from AT&T, he noted that starting with 250mbps was a good place to start and then I could increase it as more people started using the service. When I asked about overloading the AT&T fiber, he said peak usage of all his customers combined maxed out between 300mbps and 400mbps.
After negotiating with AT&T, I got the price of a direct, business level SLA 1 gbps fiber line to my home down to about $30k, paid in monthly installments over 2 years. This worked out to be $1250/month 1gbps up and 1gbps down. I did the math and saw all I needed was 10 customers (including myself willing to pay $125/month).
Interestingly enough, I didn’t know if I could get that many. A couple of neighbors were interested, others didn’t want to pay more than $50 a month and some just didn’t respond. All of them had other cheaper options available for less speed and for some that’s all they needed.
Ultimately, I decided not to move forward. Beyond the cost and trying to sign up customers, I was fortunate enough to receive a tip from a technician who came out to do the site survey for AT&T. He looked me in the eye and asked, “Are you sure you want to do this? Once we put a fiber run to your house, the rest of the people in your neighborhood without fiber will get upgraded too, and they’ll be paying regular AT&T prices.”
In other words, I’d be paying $1250 a month, while trying to convince my neighbors to use my services instead of paying much less for AT&T services. It didn’t matter if I could give them symmetrical high speed up and down, I just wouldn’t be able to compete with AT&T on price. Not when I was paying off a $30k installation bill.
Even if AT&T didn’t upgrade the houses in my block, I’d still have to compete with Big Wave Wireless and Rise Broadband, both of whom are MUCH more experienced and who are actually in the business of providing internet services.
So is this DIY low cost solution worth considering for me? Not any more. I learned some lessons I would could not have learned without going through the process, and ultimately, I would rather buy service from an existing telecom provider like Big Wave Wireless than build my own.
I’m sharing this update in the context of LOTS of discussions around the city spending $25m to build a city run fiber service. With that context in mind, a modified version of this simple approach could quickly and easily provide “spot” solutions to trouble spot neighborhoods for a fraction of the price.
While some people might call fixed wireless a “bandaid”, I’m sure people with sub 10mbps connections would be excited to know that in a matter of few weeks or months, they could get 50+mbps from fixed wireless that doesn’t go offline when it rains.
Having the city partner with telecom companies to provide incentives for their expansion into trouble spots in Lucas seems like a much simpler and faster solution to solve people’s problems now, rather than years from now. Less expensive than $25m too. Things like Special Assessment Taxes could also be considered.
Original Post, April 8, 2019
This article talks about how one man in Marin County (just outside of SF) solved his high speed internet needs using AT&T Dedicated fiber and a simple wide area “wifi” solution for his neighborhood.
One option for Lucas might be to install fiber connected mini-towers across the city.
Besides the internet access fee, the radio to broadcast the signal could be as little as $1000. Homes would need a small $100 antenna and line of sight to this mini-tower.
Speaking with Brandt(the person who set this up), he says he currently has 250 homes in his community connected to the internet this way.
He charges them $50 per month and they each get between 100mbps and 500mbps download speeds.