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Against a backdrop of controversy and criticism, efforts to improve the Rancho Murieta Association cable system have moved forward and are nearing completion.

"There has been a ton of work being done behind the scenes over the course of the last six months and, more importantly probably, over the course of the last two months in what I would term almost a total rebuild of the Rancho Murieta North cable infrastructure," RMA General Manager David Stiffler said Wednesday.

Stiffler told the RMA Communications Committee he wanted the community to know the cable department was just two to three days away from completing the last of eight projects the board approved to upgrade the system. With the improved system come the new cable services scheduled for launch last August.

"Whether we keep it, or whether we sell it, lease it, whatever it ends up being ... the work that has been done up to this point greatly enhances the value of this system," Stiffler said.

The work brings the aging North cable system up to the bandwidth capacity of newer subdivisions on the South.

The projects added fiber-optic cable and created segmented service areas "to get our Rancho Murieta North system up to the level needed ... to be able to provide the quality of service and reliability to our members as they've been paying for all these years," Stiffler said.

"For a lot of people, for our members, the appearance may be that (the cable department) is in limbo right now and that's the furthest thing from the truth because they're working under the cover of darkness," said Maintenance Manager Rod Hart.

It was Hart's idea to do cable work when it would cause the least disruption in TV and broadband services, Stiffler said. "These guys weren't thrilled with the idea of coming in at 1:30 or 2 o'clock in the morning two or three days a week for a couple months but were willing to do so."

Hart, who manages both cable and maintenance personnel, supervised and participated in the predawn effort.

Stiffler said a key part of the upgrade was the installation of six strategically located fiber nodes throughout the North to serve the more than 1,500 homes previously served by one system. The six became seven when it turned out fiber-optic cable had been brought to a Lago Drive location but never hooked up, he said. All the existing components at each node location were also replaced.

"The primary thing that that means is our bandwidth and the variety that we can offer to our members once this is complete," Hart said. The segments serve 250 customers, which will aid troubleshooting and maintenance, and make problems "a lot easier to isolate and fix," he said.

"What this is going to do is ... improve the reliability of our system," said Stiffler. "I will be the first to admit that up until the last few months our thought process was reactive versus proactive when it came to the cable TV system. In other words, we'd wait till a component went down and we'd get 10 or 15 irate phone calls, and we'd run out and try to fix it. Those days are over. ... Now we have the ability to implement an effective preventive maintenance program that has been sorely lacking for many, many years."

Hart said the new equipment adjusts automatically to temperature changes, and cable problems that occurred because of hot summer weather won't happen any more. "That was a huge problem," he said.

Stiffler said $181,000 was budgeted for the projects, and $113,000 has been spent as the work draws to a close. He attributed the savings to having RMA personnel do work that used to be outsourced, particularly trenching and cable-pulling. He noted that committee member Justin Jordan provided 20,000 feet of fiber-optic cable to the RMA at no cost.

Jordan has also worked as a paid contractor for the RMA.

Once the work is done, the system will be balanced and tested, "and then we're going to launch our new programming," Stiffler said.

Promotional brochures offering new tiers of digital programming were prepared last summer. Problems on the North delayed the launch and fueled criticism of the cable system that resulted in a petition drive to make basic cable service voluntary. The issue was presented to the membership as a survey question in January and the results are now being compiled.

Stiffler said a meeting on cable scheduled for Feb. 21 had been canceled. At that time, a vendor for leasing the system was supposed to make a presentation. Director Mel Standart said the board had reconsidered and would bring the vendor in "if and when we bring other vendors in so everybody gets a fair shot to sell their product."

Ken Burns's picture
Joined: 08/02/2007
Posts: 12
Post rating: 7

Cable Service

Gee, why is my cable service STILL SO CRAPPY????

John T. Weatherford's picture
Joined: 08/06/2007
Posts: 66
Post rating: 0

More BS

RMA General Manger David Stiffler’s, latest statements on the continuing expenditure of RMA reserves on an already fiscally irresponsible project just further proves that he and the current president Jack Cooper don’t have a clue. What they have actually done is spend over half a million dollars of members money, plus raised the members dues the past 2 years, patching a dilapidated, antiquated and unwanted system and then make a statement that, "the work that has been done up to this point greatly enhances the value of this system" with absolutely no proof that this is true.

Mr Stiffler is supposed to be searching for vendors to find out if this system is worth anything to lease or sell, instead he has our overworked maintenance department "working under the cover of darkness" , which is a very appropriate description of this whole project. Apparently he is in rush to spend this money before we count the votes on the Freedom of Choice Petition.

Incidentally, the vendor that was going to make a presentation about leasing the system is not even in the cable TV business. They are a manufacturer of network equipment. Apparently Jack and Dave are not able to tell the difference between an equipment vendor and a cable TV operator.

Allied Telesis is a telecommunications company, formerly Allied Telesyn. Headquartered in Japan, their North American headquarters are in Bothell, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. Founded in 1987, the company is a global provider of secure Ethernet/IP access solutions and an industry leader in the deployment of IP triple play networks over copper and fiber access infrastructure.

"IP triple play", apparently RMA also wants to be your phone company!

John T Weatherford

Mike Burnett's picture
Joined: 07/31/2007
Posts: 183
Post rating: 0

The whole is not equal to the sum of its parts!

The RMA Board is burying their head over the Cable Television issue.  The General Manager thinks that by making some improvements, that residents will cancel their dish subscriptions?  I think the board is making some potent koolaid at their meetings.  The service simply will never compare to the commercial service providers.

It is very arrogant for RMA Staff to plow ahead (no pun intended) and spend funds for a system that is exponentially losing support in the community.  If they think using in-house personnel like Rod Hart and others to perform this work is an intelligent way of managing services, they need to find another job.  Either we don't need the RMA employees on the payroll or they are deferring essential services by taking the employees away from their daily responsibilities.  Either way this is a lose - lose plan.

Here is a community which I lived in recently and has the triple play we have talked about providing in RMA for years, http://www.leesburg2day.com/articles/2007/05/11/news/fp937openban051107.txt.  Still the residents are installing dishes and want to opt out of the service.  I worked for Verizon and could have had a discount on their FiOS service, except the association had an agreement to keep Verizon and Comcast out of their community.  The FCC is currently reviewing these types of arrangements and will likely outlaw them in the near future.  Mandatory participation by HOA's is also getting bad press and is scrutinized as being unfair. 

People want choices and these types of mandatory services do not provide them.  Requiring RMA members to pay dues for the Cable Television Service and allowing non-association subscribers to opt out is very unfair.  The Cable Television Agreement and RMA's governing documents do not have any provisions for mandatory subscription of RMA members.  Maybe we need to follow the example set by Wilbur and challenge this in a small claims court.

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