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

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Enlarge / Fiber conduits being installed 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 house about five miles from Google’s headquarters. But after moving in December 2019, Zbrozek says he learned that Comcast never wired his house—despite previously telling him it could offer Internet service at the address.

Today, Zbrozek is on the board of a co-op ISP called Los Altos Hills Community Fiber (LAHCF), which provides multi-gigabit fiber Internet to dozens of homes and has a plan to serve hundreds more. Town residents were able to form the ISP with the help of Next Level Networks, which isn’t a traditional consumer broadband provider but a company that builds and manages networks for local groups.

Zbrozek’s experience with Comcast led to him getting involved with LAHCF and organizing an expansion that brought 10Gbps symmetrical fiber to his house and others on nearby roads. Zbrozek described his experience to Ars in a phone 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 told us.

Want Comcast? That’ll be $210,000

There are five parcels that neighbor Zbrozek’s property, and three of them have Comcast service, he said. Comcast’s online availability checker indicated—correctly, as it turned out—that the house he was buying didn’t have service. But it was clear that Comcast was serving the neighborhood, so he called the cable company to find out if he could get Internet access.

Zbrozek recalled a Comcast agent telling him the previous residents of the house he was buying never 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.”

Instead of it being no big deal, Zbrozek said it took over a year to get Comcast to tell him how much it would charge for a line extension to his house. Zbrozek eventually had to reach out to the Los Altos Hills town government to get a price quote from Comcast.

The answer was $210,000. Comcast wanted Zbrozek to pay $300 per foot to trench cable across about 700 feet, according to a February 2021 email from Los Altos Hills’ public works director that Zbrozek shared with Ars.

While Zbrozek had calculated a distance of 167 feet from his property to the nearest pole with Comcast wires, he said Comcast told him the house was too far from the pole to legally provide above-ground service. Los Altos Hills requires underground installation in most cases.

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

Zbrozek also proposed connecting to Comcast by running 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 told Ars. However, Comcast doesn’t allow that type 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 said. Before getting fiber service, Zbrozek and his wife, 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 said.

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Author: Jon Brodkin