Sasha Zbrozek lives in Los Altos Hills, California, which she 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 Comcast never wired his home, despite previously telling him he could offer Internet service at the address.
Today, Zbrozek sits on the board of a cooperative ISP called Los Altos Hills community fiber (LAHCF), which delivers multi-gigabit fiber Internet to dozens of homes and has plans to serve hundreds more. The residents of the city were able to form the ISP with the help of Next level networkswhich is not a traditional consumer broadband provider, but a company that builds and operates networks for local groups.
Zbrozek’s experience with Comcast led him to get involved with LAHCF and organize an expansion that brought 10Gbps symmetric fiber to his home and others on nearby streets. Zbrozek recounted his experience to Ars in a telephone interview and in emails.
“Before I bought my home, I checked with Comcast, over the phone, to see if service was available at the address. They said yes. After I moved, I called to purchase service. The technician came out and asked left a note saying the service was not available,” he told us.
Do you want Comcast? It will be $210,000
There are five parcels that border Zbrozek’s property, and three of them have Comcast service, he said. Comcast’s online availability check indicated, correctly, as it turned out, that the home he was buying had no service. But it was clear that Comcast served the neighborhood, so he called the cable company to see if he could get Internet access.
Zbrozek recalled a Comcast agent telling him that previous residents of the home he was buying had never signed up for the service and that “we may need to add a drop from the pile to your house, but, you know, otherwise it’s not a big issue”.
Instead of not being a 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 home. Zbrozek eventually had to contact the Los Altos Hills city government to get a quote from Comcast.
The answer was $210,000. Comcast wanted Zbrozek to pay $300 a foot to dig a cable about 700 feet long, according to a February 2021 email from the Los Altos Hills director of public works that Zbrozek shared with Ars.
While Zbrozek had calculated a distance of 167 feet from his property to the nearest pole with Comcast cables, he said Comcast had told him the house was too far from the pole to legally provide above ground service. Hills of Los Altos requires underground installation in most cases.
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) Comcast neighbor who would have allowed me to do some private trenching is about 40 feet,” Zbrozek told Ars. However, Comcast does not allow that type of property-to-property connection.
“The Spirit of the Franchise Agreement [between Comcast and Los Altos Hills] is that I should be able to get service because I’m on a public road, but in practice that wasn’t the case,” he said. Before getting fiber service, Zbrozek and his wife, Stella, made do by “tethering a a cell phone. I just got an unlimited plan and connected my cell phone to a home router and called it a day,” he said.