Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Los Altos Hills Community Fiber?
Los Altos Hills Community Fiber is a community owned and operated broadband service association. It is structured as a not-for-profit organization similar to a local water district. Local community members come to together to collectively build and deploy utility infrastructure for their own purposes and, in this case, it is a broadband fiber optic network. There is a one-time assessment fee to join and then monthly membership fees to use to the network. The system is managed by a third party similar to a management company hired by a home owners association.
- Why would I need gigabit speed service?
Access to high speed Internet is important for both personal and work-related uses to participate fully in today’s world. Increasingly services, work options, video conferencing and Internet-connected devices require significant upstream and downstream bandwidth that you often can’t obtain (or can’t consistently obtain) from traditional broadband providers. Our gigabit fiber broadband service is designed to offer symmetrical service, meaning the upstream speed is as fast as the downstream speed. Fiber networks can deliver gigabit speed service today and significantly faster service speeds in the future.
- What makes this fiber broadband different from what I have now?
Most of the broadband infrastructure relies upon copper wire (either a small pair of wires or a thick coaxial “Cable TV” wire). LAHCF uses fiber optics, as thin as a human hair, to connect your house to the Internet at the speed of light. Our fiber optic network can be upgraded to. an even faster than gigabit service in the future, which the current providers will have difficulty delivering with their outdated copper cable technologies.
- Why would I want to switch from a traditional broadband provider?
In America today, we pay the most of any industrialized country for often very poor levels of broadband service. Also, traditional broadband providers have very limited upstream speeds, which is becoming increasingly problematic for households with video security systems or often use video conferencing. Outdated broadband networks often suffer from “data traffic congestion” during peak usage times, slowing your effective network speeds and impacting video and streaming services. Finally, pricing of broadband and bundled services typically increases after a number of months, unless you continually contact the provider and renegotiate your contract.
- How is LAHCF different?
LAHCF is a completely different model for providing internet service to your home. LAHCF is funded by local residents who believe that owning and operating a fiber broadband service will be a valuable long-term investment in our homes and our community.
- How does this give me more choice and control?
In the LAHCF model, we charge monthly service fees to cover for the cost of the system and build financial reserves for future upgrades. Our not-for-profit organization is made up of members of our community who own and benefit from the service, rather than shareholders who seek financial profits from operating the service. Members of the LAHCF association collectively determine service pricing, operating policies and infrastructure decisions.
- What service does LAHCF offer?
LAHCF offers the most advanced gigabit-speed broadband service available to your home. Our platform will enable the community to choose the best video/TV, voice/telephone and smart home services on an individual basis, rather than being limited to specific service bundles offered by the broadband service provider. That’s why we believe you will have more choice and control with LAHCF.
- How is LAHCF fiber futureproof?
Building our own fiber-optic network infrastructure will ensure that the community can upgrade its broadband service to take advantage of technology advances for decades to come. The speed at which data can flow through fiber optic cables continues to increase over time and by building a fiber optic network infrastructure, we will be able to continually upgrade the electronics and equipment powering our broadband network. Even when other broadband providers build out fiber-to-the-home networks, they typically connect dozens of homes to a single shared fiber strand. In contrast, LAHCF connects a dedicated fiber from each home to the distribution system, so you are not sharing the local connection with your neighbors. This approach will ensure that you don’t experience congestion issues or slow service during peak usage periods.
- How do I bring this service to my neighborhood/community/business?
Sign up on the LAHCommunityFiber.org website for the newsletter and more information. Our cooperative relies upon neighborhood champions to get your neighbors on board with installing LAHCF in your neighborhood.
- What are the advantages of owning a fiber broadband system versus “renting” service from Comcast or AT&T?
The pricing for your current broadband service with traditional providers tends to correlate with the amount of competition in the community and is structured to maximize profit for their company’s shareholders. LAHCF owns and operates our own network, so our service fees will simply cover our costs and fund appropriate levels of reserves for maintenance and upgrades. Another key difference is that members will be sharing the fixed costs of the system such that as more residents join, more people will be sharing the fixed costs. You can thus expect our service fees will be more stable than traditional providers and even to decrease over time as more members join the network. As most residents have discovered, the pricing of their existing Internet service providers typically continues to climb year-to-year unless you continually contact them and renegotiate your contract.
- How much does it cost to join?
There is an initial assessment fee to cover the cost of the infrastructure and connection to your home and a monthly membership fee. The initial assessment fee will include the cost of the equipment in your home so you will no longer have to pay rental fees for the equipment needed for your broadband service.
- How much does the construction cost and how are members assessed?
The cost of construction for a neighborhood buildout phase will be shared by the participants and therefore is dependent upon the number of members initially signing up. Extensions into new neighborhoods will include a proportional cost contribution of the existing network backbone, the cost of extending the network into their neighborhood and the cost of connecting individual homes to the network. Residents who elect to join the service on an individual basis after the neighborhood is built and operating may do so but will likely incur a higher assessment than those who participated during the initial construction phase.
- Is there an installment or payment plan for the upfront membership cost?
Currently we only offer a single one time install assessment option, but we recommend searching out tax-deductible home improvement loans for this valuable home improvement. Additionally, we are evaluating various installment and payment plans for future members of the association.
- What is the billing process for adopting the LAHCF?
Once you are a member of LAHCF and receiving service, you will set up with an electronic payment processing method and get billed monthly (the same as for most other subscription services.
- Will adding LAHCF to my home raise my property value?
Studies have shown that communities and homes that have high speed broadband options will often be more sought out and have higher property values than homes without access to high speed services. The upfront investment in our gigabit speed service will not only enable tech savvy families to use a variety of cloud-based services for work, security and entertainment without the typical limitations, but the investment should be easily recouped when selling your home.
- How hard and long does it take to put fiber in my neighborhood and to my home?
Building in a particular neighborhood requires “buy in” by a sufficient number of neighbors to help fund buildout into a neighborhood. We will need neighborhood champions to help educate individual neighborhoods on the benefit of connecting to LAHCF. LAHCF will prioritize future build-out phases of the network to those neighborhoods, who have the commitments from the minimum number of neighbors to fund the construction.
- What is the role of a neighborhood champion?
LAHCF is community-run organization and marketing of the service will be done through neighborhood champions who are informed about the LAHCF options, services, pricing and our operating model. A neighborhood champion will be a resident(s) who gather interest and organize potential participants in their neighborhood. Neighborhood champions work closely with LAHCF leadership to coordinate their efforts and plan for the continued expansion of the network. The ultimate goal of LAHCF is to provide high speed community fiber to all LAH residents.
- How many people do I need if I want to get LAHCF in my neighborhood?
LAHCF is built out with individual neighborhood project planning and budgeting processes. A neighborhood with just a few highly motivated adopters could move forward if each of the initial members are willing to put up more for the initial install per connection. As we build the network we will always plan and assume a majority of the neighborhood will connect at some point and those initial adopters will be refunded portions of their install fee as more of their neighbors join the system and pay for the network infrastructure.
- A number of people in my neighborhood are interested. What do I do next?
Become a LAHCF neighborhood champion and get trained on how to get your neighborhood informed, engaged and connected.
- How do I become a champion?
Please visit the LAHCF website at https://www.lahcommunityfiber.org and fill out the newsletter email form. There is an option there to enter your contact info and answer a question about offering to be a neighborhood champion.
Please contact Scott Vanderlip at (650) 793-0475 or at LAHCommunityFiber@gmail.com. You may also contact Next Level Networks at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Do I still pay for telephone, TV, security, etc.
LAHCF provides an ultra–high-speed, state-of-the-art broadband service, which will serve as a platform for other services purchased directly from respective providers. This approach enables members to choose from a variety of traditional and cloud–based services for other services in your home, including television, telephone, security, etc. without being forced to use services from specific companies or having to pay for services that you don’t need.
- How does this work with my current home network? Do I need a new wireless system?
Homes that were built with wireline infrastructure can generally utilize that wireline network with our service. Wireless routers need to have sufficient high-speed capability in order for you to enjoy the full benefit of the LAHCF broadband service. Included in your initial assessment, LAHCF will provide a high-speed wi-fi router that will be installed when your broadband service is established.
- If I have an issue with my broadband, who do I call?
If you have a service level issue, you can contact our contracted Internet Service Provider, Next Level Networks. We will provide you with a phone number and plus other support options to service your requests.
Other service, policy, account information, home configurations, etc., might be handled by LAHCF members. We encourage LAHCF members to help each other out with computer and networking issues to keep our operating costs as low as possible.
- What is the current state of the LAHCF network?
LAHCF Phase 1 has been up and running with a select set of LAH residents along Fremont Pines Lane since April 2, 2019 offering Gigabit (e.g. 900-1000 Mbps) symmetrical (both up and down) service.
LAHCF is now designing the next phases of expansion of their network. To help LAHCF make decisions about which neighborhood build to deploy next, we are looking for neighborhood champions to come forward and help us aggregate sufficient numbers of new members for our next phases.
- What is net neutrality and what are LAHCF’s policies regarding this?
Network neutrality is a term used when describing business policies that broadband providers use to provide preferential access to certain organizations or limit access to specific services. It is often a method that broadband providers can use to generate additional revenue from third parties whom their subscribers are using. The members of our cooperative will determine the policies for our network and we plan to publicly endorse the highest level of net neutrality for our network.
- What are LAHCF’s privacy policies?
Traditional broadband providers often collect your information and usage data to resell without your explicit permission. In contrast, LAHCF is a member–owned association that will determine the policies that our internet service abides by. LAHCF has no need or intention of tracking what subscribers are specifically doing with your Internet connection and providing it to third parties for profit.
- Will there be any data caps or bandwidth throttling for LAHCF internet?
We plan to offer gigabit speed services without caps to our members. Common usage patterns, even significant use of streaming video services is anticipated and incorporated into the cost models. While it rarely ever happens, if individual members are discovered to be using the LAHCF network in a manner that impacts the rest of the community, we might disable that user to provide better level of service to the entire network and work to resolve that user issue.
- When will 10 Gigabit service be available to LAHCF subscribers?
LAHCF has designed the network and backend equipment to offer 10 gigabit speed service to all subscribers in the future. Because very few broadband service providers are able to provide 10 gigabit service, the equipment costs are still quite high. We are currently exploring solutions to provision 10 gigabit speed service at a reasonable cost and expect to be able to offer 10 gigabit service in the not too distant future. As technology advances enable even higher speeds, we will upgrade our equipment to offer these higher speeds when the membership agrees to do so.