On Thursday night, the city council in Brigham City voted to move forward on a predevelopment agreement with Macquarie. This is a positive step towards bringing $300M in investment to UTOPIA, completing the buildout in all member cities, and contributing money towards the UTOPIA bond payments. Unfortunately, the meeting wasn’t without theatrics and hysterics with plenty of incoherent rants and untruths during the public comment period. We even got a special Hitler reference from one of them.
You can watch the work session and city council meeting online (skip to 33:00 to begin public comment). The work session includes a very informative history of how private industry failed to build the infrastructure the city needed to keep businesses. Some quick facts from the work session and council meeting:
- In Brigham City, a total of 1600 people signed up for the SAA and about 1300 are current subscribers to the service, about 26% of the city.
- Brigham City is currently not contributing any payments towards UTOPIA’s operational shortfall of about $2.1M per year.
- UTOPIA’s revenues raised much faster when they started primarily targeting business customers.
- January’s income is much higher than expected.
- Anything beyond the current plan to slowly grow the network to profitability would be a much more expensive option. But we already knew that, didn’t we?
- Reissuing the bonds would be very expensive because of the way the current bonds are issued.
- The network will remain the property of the member cities. Macquarie is primarily interested in a return on their investment, not ownership. To break even, they’d need to bring in $10M per year over the life of the contract.
- Per Ken Sutton, owner of UTOPIA ISP Brigham,net, if the network doesn’t make a profit, Macquarie doesn’t get paid. Period.
- The woman who canceled the RUS loan to UTOPIA is now an executive at Frontier, the incumbent operator in Tremonton. Isn’t that special?
- Per their IT director, Box Elder School District depends on UTOPIA for 55% of students to get Internet access. They have no other fiber options available to them.
As expected, Ruth Jensen was combative for much of the work session, fitting her previous history of more-or-less unhinged opposition to UTOPIA. She even went so far as to propose suing UTOPIA, calling it “enslav[ing] the people”. The city attorney promptly smacked her down, saying that it would be the city effectively suing itself. (Skip to ~38:00 in the work session video to see it for yourself.)
So far, West Valley City, Layton, and Tremonton have also signed on. Centerville and Murray are considering it this week. Payson, as usual, is hoping that the whole thing will just go away and is ignoring anything UTOPIA-related. Word around the campfire is that all of the other cities want to move forward on a full study.