Could some of the most in-demand housing markets be cooling off?
Toll Unveils 'Last Mile' Services
Publicly-traded luxury home building Giant Toll Brothers Inc., headquartered in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., is the latest builder to jump into the telecommunication services fray.
Publicly-traded luxury home building Giant Toll Brothers Inc., headquartered in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., is the latest
builder to jump into the telecommunication services fray, offering home buyers in a Delray Beach, Fla., community cable
television, high-speed internet access, and several other high-tech options through a newly-formed subsidiary - Advanced
Toll has installed a broadband fiber-optic network at Mizner Country Club, just north of Boca Raton, Fla., where the
firm builds homes ranging from 2600 to 4500 square feet, priced $400,000 to $750,000. "We are increasingly finding that
our home owners are very computer literate and highly knowledgeable about emerging technologies and services," says Toll
Brothers chairman Robert Toll. "Advanced Broadband - will ensure that our homes and communities remain on the leading
edge of technology."
With the formation of Advanced Broadband, Toll hopes to leapfrog the capabilities of incumbent telephone and cable TV
providers by building a private, residential communications infrastructure based on highly advanced fiber optic
technology. "Communities served by Ad-vanced Broadband, such as Mizner Country Club, will have more fiber and more
bandwidth per home than any other community in North America," says Michael Zammit, managing director of
telecommunications for Toll.
Band width is a measure of the capacity of physical lines to carry communications transmissions. The copper lines
provided by local telephone service pro-viders are widely viewed as the last hurdle denying true high-speed access to
residential internet users. Advanced Broadband plans to eliminate this bottle-neck by providing Toll home buyers with
the means to bypass the local phone company altogether.
"Residents of Mizner Country Club will have access to true broadband infrastructure capable of supporting their
communication needs well into the 21st century," says Toll vice president Dan Grosswald. "In effect, through Advanced
Broadband, we are `future proofing' the investment our customers make in our homes and communities."
Grosswald touches on a point that has to be concerning builders all across the country, especially those in higher
price ranges - fear of obsolescence. Especially where buyers view a home as an appreciating investment, not just a
shelter purchase, homes without such `future proofing' could be seen as a risky buy.
"Our homes will retain their marketability and optimal value even as technology continues to evolve and consumer
demand for higher performance contin-ues to grow," says Grosswald.
Initially, Advanced Broadband will fo-cus on delivering high quality digital and analog cable television services, as
well as high-speed internet access. Using a small satellite dish discretely located in the community, TV signals are
processed using an innovative new digital compression technology that enables Advanced Broadband to re-transmit the
signal to every home in the community. In addition, as part of normal home owners associa-tion services, all residents
will receive al-ways-on, high-speed internet access at up to 128 Kbps. If a home owner desires more speed, a phone call
to Advanced Broadband allows connection speed to be increased to as much as 1.5 Mbps. That's 50 times faster than
typical telephone dial-up connections.
In the future, Advanced Broadband plans to offer residents telephone service, video conferencing, software game
rentals, and video-on-demand. The network may also be used to provide conven-iences such as meter reading, security
monitoring, and even business center services. "Our vision is to create a `digital community' where everyday tasks are
made easier and more convenient for home owners," says Grosswald.
Toll also offers buyers the ability to pur-chase enhanced in-home wiring packages. The most popular option is a
computer local area network (LAN), which allows the home owner to connect multiple computers to allow sharing a printer
or multiple people to access the internet at the same time. Other options include home office upgrades, home theater
systems, and an advanced video distribution capability that permits a DVD movie or a security camera to be viewed on any
TV in the home.
Right now, Toll is committed to wiring four communities in this fashion. In addi-tion to Mizner Country Club, Naples
Lakes Country Club, on Florida's west coast, will soon offer these services, and two golf communities in Northern
Virginia will be added later. Currently, Toll has 10,000 lots committed to the Advanced Broadband initiative. Toll now
builds in 145 communities in 19 states.