The day before the meeting, I got a call from the chair of the Council to offer the spot on the agenda I had been speaking. It was pretty short notice, but I was glad to have some real time to speak to them about bringing UTOPIA to the neighborhood. I quickly put together a PowerPoint presentation and drew up a map of the potential aerial run from the backbone along the UPRR to White City. It also helped that I was able to borrow a projector from work to show off my handiwork.
The meeting went very well. I kept myself within the 10-minute limit for presenting and the question-and-answer period lasted over 45 minutes. The chair asked some very tough questions (i.e. "exactly what kind of agency is UTOPIA", "what department is it under", etc.), but the straw poll of council members present showed interest in more information by 5-3. Understandably, there are two main concerns to joining UTOPIA:
- How much will it cost? The good news on this front is that the run from the backbone is entirely aerial and, from my first observations, so are about 75%+ of the homes. This greatly decreases the cost to deploy the project, though I can't imagine it will be cheap to complete the run from 9000 S and 500 W to at least 10100 S 700 E. Aerial runs are cheaper because there's no trenches to dig, a large part of the cost of installation. I'm working on figuring out how many homes are using aerial runs so that I can get a ballpark figure from DynamicCity on costs.
- Will legislators or lobbyists retaliate for joining? This is a valid concern considering the lobbying power of both Qwest and Comcast. (Yes, Qwest representative, I know you've been reading since at least November. Hiding behind iauq.com didn't really help you out.) Naturally, the township would not be willing to sacrifice things like monster home ordinances, better sheriff's coverage and preventing the proposed school district split. I wouldn't blame them either. As important as broadband is, it can't trump any of those things. The chair of the Council wants to discuss this in depth further with someone from UTOPIA before making any further commitments.
There were a few vehicles floated for joining. The obvious one is forming a Special Improvement District. Another one is to amend the Municipal Cable Television and Public Telecommunications Services Act to allow counties to join, preferable since it would also help out other townships and distribute many of the costs. The least likely of these was bonding through the local water district. That's not feasible because it's very sensitive to prices; the last rate increase to pay for improvements to the west side apparently raised emotions pretty high. I also don't like the idea of blending utility functions like that.
Present that evening was Rep. Sylvia Andersen, our elected member of the House. She was openly hostile towards UTOPIA in general, calling it "unfair government competition". (How it is that a service that brings in four new private companies to provide service is unfair considering how Qwest and Comcast have actively crushed competition is beyond my comprehension.) I got the feeling, however, that she would change her tune should the Council be interested in UTOPIA. More than one member of the council said that White City comprises a significant chunk of her district and what the township wants, she usually does.
The good news is that the Council is, as a whole, interested and has invited me back next month to elaborate on these two questions. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 11th at 7PM at Eastmont Middle School, 10100 S 1300 E, Room #105 in Sandy. (Park in the lower parking lot for easiest access to the meeting room.) I plan to present as much cost information as possible and see if I can line up some special guests, potentially higher-ups from DynamicCity or UTOPIA to answer some of the nitty-gritty that I can't.
If you want to show up to the meeting, please do! The more voices that are heard from us, the better. I'd also love to hear from you before the meeting, especially if you want to be more involved in getting UTOPIA out here.