After two years of searching, UTOPIA has announced that Roger Timmerman will be returning from Vivint Wireless to be the new executive director. You may recall that Roger was involved both with UTOPIA and iProvo since the early days (2004, to be exact), so he’s bringing a pretty deep understanding of both fiber and municipal networks to the table. I was sad to see Roger go (and you all know how I feel about Vivint), so I’m glad to have him back.
With UTOPIA reaching operational break even and starting to build more network in more places, now is a good time to have someone back in the captain’s chair. I hear that in addition to expansions in Midvale, West Valley City, and Layton, the city of Perry is getting a full deployment. Orem also has new councilmember (and UTOPIA supporter) Sam Lentz as their member of the UIA board, so it’s possible that there may be some movement there as well.
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After making some big claims (and underhanded political maneuvers), it looks like Vivint’s wireless division may be getting cut loose. The company ceased adding new customers several months ago, closed up operations in Texas and New Mexico, and changed their topography from their overhyped wireless mesh to using traditional WISP towers. Technical support has also reportedly stopped fielding calls on the weekends leaving some customers with outages that last until Monday morning. Customer reviews have been mixed at best. While speeds are often impressive for wireless, many customers report frequent downtime or a degradation of service several months after signing up.
More telling is what’s alleged to be going on internally. Sales staff have either been cut loose or reassigned to other divisions of the company. Tech staff have seen similar cutbacks which may account for the degraded support response times. Apparently the original business model of unlimited use of symmetrical speeds up to 100Mbps for $60/mo hasn’t panned out either. All of this points to a product that doesn’t have long for this world.
I honestly can’t say I’m surprised. The history of wireless broadband seems to be over-promise and under-deliver on almost all counts. Vivint has become another entry in the list of companies who thought they could cheat the laws of physics with the power of marketing. Sadly, they cost several UTOPIA cities a shot at Macquarie with their marketing BS, a legacy of shame that will likely outlive their ill-fated venture into being an ISP.
Beehive Broadband has big broadband dreams. After rolling fiber in their native service areas in Tooele County (even into the spec of nothingness that is Grouse Creek) and hitting downtown SLC with fiber rings, they’re now making a push to bring gigabit fiber into The Avenues neighborhood of Salt Lake City. Pricing is targeted around $40-50/mo for 100Mbps and $70 or so for gigabit with an install fee in the $100-200 range. They’ll also be offering up phone and TV service for those so inclined.
The strategy is simple: build fiber to commercial buildings, then target neighborhoods nearby to bring it to the home. If this sounds familiar, it’s because CenturyLink said they would do the same thing, yet they seem to be very slow to follow up on it. Beehive is also evaluating using this plan in many other cities including Draper, Herriman, Holladay, Riverton, and Lehi. Right now, they’re looking primarily at areas that are being ignored by Comcast and CenturyLink.
So what about Google Fiber’s entry into SLC? Beehive is taking a “first to market” approach and plans to start hooking people up as early as mid-January, well before Google will turn over a single shovel of dirt. They’re also planning to make service available to all addresses in the footprint, something Google hasn’t done once their initial “fiberhood” signup period closes outside of a few exceptions in Provo. My take is that this is going to be a more successful strategy that could stymie Google’s efforts to break into that neighborhood.
If you get signed up on this service, let us know in the comments how it works out.