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.
By Bill Lurz, Senior Editor | June 11, 2002
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 Broadband.

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.