Bill Alert: HB60 would ban UTOPIA construction outside member cities

In a completely ill-considered move, Rep Curt Webb is running a bill, HB60, which would restrict any municipal fiber network (but, curiously, not cable, DSL, wireless, or any other technology) from building anything outside the boundaries of member cities. This is aimed squarely at UTOPIA only, and it is meant to be a purely punitive measure.

So what prompted this? Probably the developers and companies who paid out of their own pockets to expand the network. Hamlett Homes extended it into South Salt Lake communities, and a number of businesses near the backbone but outside of member cities have done the same. These extensions help lessen the burden on taxpayers as a whole by shifting more of the costs onto subscribers, but it doesn’t cost any city a red cent.

As the bill is currently written, UTOPIA wouldn’t just be prevented from building to people willing to pay for it. They could also be required to shut down any existing services and be prohibited from maintaining their backbone that links cities together. It would effectively be a death sentence on any network that isn’t entirely within member cities AND can connect to an exchange point to reach ISPs and the rest of the Internet.

Naturally, I had to follow the money and it explains a lot. Rep. Webb has taken contributions from CenturyLink and the Utah Rural Telecom Association. What’s he got planned next? Duplicating the anti-Google Fiber bill from Kansas?

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18 Responses to Bill Alert: HB60 would ban UTOPIA construction outside member cities

  1. Sam Allen says:

    Jesse, can you elaborate on where Utopia was extended? What businesses and or developments are receiving Utopia outside of the participant city boundaries? I love the idea and certainly would consider moving to a development if it had Utopia. I’ve used iProvo @ 15 meg and it is far superior to my Century Link 40 meg connection. I can only guess what 100 or 1000 mb would be like.

    How can one squash business this way? As you say, it doesn’t cost the city one cent. Are cities going to Rep. Web asking him for this bill as they are suffering financial losses?? Heavens no. It’s the cable and telcos pushing for this they don’t want competition. Well, I want competition.

    • Jesse says:

      I don’t know the specific locations, but I do know that some business parks in Roy had asked for it, among other locations. As long as the subscriber will front all of the costs, they can get it anywhere they want right now. Your best bet would be to ask UTOPIA directly or use the map at the Utah Broadband Project to figure out where it is in member cities.

    • Eddie says:

      There are fiber optics running up and down Utah and most of them are unused. Utopia might buy, build, or lease fiber through a city that isn’t participating. The dark fiber (unused) runs along the I-15 highway and along the vegas-utah power lines that split off from I-15 in bountiful and stay on the west of the great salt lake. As you can guess, these lines were built statewide and cross from city to city.

  2. Pete Ashdown says:

    It is also extended to Salt Lake City so XMission can service customers on the UTOPIA network. Many of the ISPs servicing UTOPIA are not actually headquartered in UTOPIA cities. This bill would shut their UTOPIA service down.

    • David Berry says:

      Pete, I hope you run for office again. I’ve broadcast this parody of justice across my social networks, and hope we can raise the public sentiment against it. Good luck, Utopia!

  3. Pingback: Utah bill would stop regional fiber networks from expanding |

  4. Richard Holder says:

    I let my representatives know how much I didn’t want HB60, and got a fascinating reply from Mr Web.

    ” Hi Richard,
    HB60 does not prohibit the expansion of the network. Utopia is an inter local agreement between member cities. The bill requires that new cities into which the network expands must become member cities. It is a matter of government transparency and accountability.
    Thanks,
    Rep. Webb

    Sent from my iPad”

  5. Pingback: Utah bill would stop regional fiber networks from expanding – Bill seen as gift to incumbent ISPs who are threatened by UTOPIA fiber network. | The Front Page News

  6. Andy says:

    How can we raise some awareness that we disagree with this HB? I am sick and tired of telco bribery which is keeping the United States in the stone age. If the telco’s were to provide us with adequate service for reasonable prices, there would be no need for municipal fiber networks to be built – it’s also worth pointing out that the telco lobby played a big role in the issues that UTOPIA faces today.

    When are these criminal acts going to stop?

    • Jesse says:

      The only solution is vigilance. We need to watch for bills as they are filed and raise a ruckus, contacting both the bill sponsors and committee members. In this case, I think Rep. Webb is going to retreat since he’s had a spotlight shined on this bill and is getting negative national press. Once legislators get the idea that running or voting for incumbent-sponsored legislation is very unpopular, they’ll have to knock it off.

    • Eddie says:

      Complaining via blog is noble and more than most people are willing do so I must applaud everyone here. But if you want to raise awareness, sharing on the social networks is a good start. I would like to see non-profits like the EFF start to go for some small wins with local issues like this bill. I have posted a reddit topic for this blog post, If you and everybody else here have 5 minutes to stand up, we could get some national attention from the EFF. Show your support at this link http://www.reddit.com/r/internetdefense/comments/1x7l2r/internet_infrastructure_is_under_fire_from_cable/

  7. Shawn B says:

    Dear Mr. Webb,

    UTOPIA is the one thing that can enforce transparency and accountability on all telco companies. You should be trying to pass bills that open the doors for community fiber infrastructure, which would force companies like Comcast to stop their anti-competitive practices. This is especially important now that net neutrality rules are gone. Competition is paramount, and UTOPIA makes it easy for anyone to compete.

    Sincerely,
    Shawn

  8. Shawn B says:

    For those wanting to voice their opinion, here is Mr. Webb’s contact info:

    Email: curtwebb@le.utah.gov
    Home Phone: 435-753-0215
    Work Phone: 435-753-2467

  9. Andy says:

    Jesse/Shawn,

    Thanks for the quick feedback! I will contact Mr. Webb’s office now and voice my concern for this bill.

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  11. Pingback: More than a coincidence? HB60 would kill access to UTOPIA as CenturyLink preps business gigabit - Free UTOPIA!

  12. Paul Larsen says:

    I’m not sure it’s going to help to contact Rep. Webb unless he is your representative. Certainly you can let him know how you feel, but you really need to concentrate your efforts on your own representatives and senators. They need to vote against this bill. Let them know that you will take their action on this bill into account when you determine who you will vote for to represent you.

    • Jesse says:

      I’d also strongly recommend contacting the members of the House Government Operations Committee. If the bill doesn’t pass there, it won’t even have a chance to get a floor vote.

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