Victory Again: HB60 withers without so much as a hearing

"HB60 is dead, Jim." (from Wikipedia)

“HB60 is dead, Jim.”
(from Wikipedia)

Without any official action, HB60 died in the same fashion as SB190 and was sent back to rules to rot out the rest of the session without so much as a committee hearing. Between these two bills, municipal broadband advocates in Utah have racked up some big wins when we’re used to nonsense punitive laws sailing through without any opposition. What changed this year was being on top of these bills and swiftly letting legislators know how we feel about them. It might not be a bad idea to write Rep. Curt Webb to express appreciation that he backed down on HB60 once we spoke up. I have a gut feeling that he was had.

And no, I’m not going to take credit for anything. Each of you who took the time to write legislators and share this information as widely as possible across social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Reddit, etc.) had at least as much of a hand in this success. I think we’ve proved that we’re a force to be reckoned with. We just have to show up.

While I think we’ve reached a point where the war is now going in our favor, it’s not over. I’m sure Comcast and CenturyLink will be more than happy to use their hatchetmen at the Utah Taxpayers Association yet again to try and throw up roadblocks next year. Sen. Valentine is not the type to go quietly into the night, and SB190 (or something like it) is probably going to be discussed in interim committees. I have little doubt that other restrictive measures will come up too. Once I find out about them, you’ll know too.

We win: SB190 is dead this year

Sen John ValentineSB190 is no more. Sen. John Valentine made a motion to send SB190 to the rules committee to be studied in the interim which passed the Senate. This effectively ends consideration of SB190 this year, though it’s possible it may come up again next year. Short version: we win.

So what do we do now? Once the session is over, make sure you go to those interim meetings and write the committee members. I have no doubt that so many of you contacting legislators made a huge difference both in getting the bill amended and ultimately getting it shelved. Between this and HB60 appearing to rot on the vine, broadband advocates in Utah have scored major victories this year.

When I hear more about the movements on the committee and its proposals, I’ll be sure to pass them along.

BREAKING: HB60 may have died in committee

I went to check the status of HB60 this morning and noticed the status has changed to “House Comm – Not Considered”. This means that the committee responsible for hearing the bill has declined to do so. Without a committee hearing, the bill has little chance of passing at all. There’s still the possibility that once the rules are suspended that it could be brought to a floor vote, but that appears to be unlikely and would be a “hail Mary” kind of move.

As always, I’m going to keep watching this one until the session is over, but it looks like we may have won this round handily.

Brigham City on Macquarie: Yes, please

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.

UTOPIA Goes for Cheap Gigabit

Remember the rumblings about UTOPIA’s upcoming announcement last week? Well, it’s here, and its’ huge. Starting today, seven providers will be offering gigabit service for as low as $64.95/mo. If you’ve already paid off the connection fee, this makes it the same or less than Google Fiber in Provo on six of them. Here’s the full price list:

Of note is that UTOPIA has added another provider, WebWave. They’ve been using UTOPIA for backhaul to wireless towers in Davis County since May and are now going to be a full-fledged ISP on the network. With nine total providers to choose from, UTOPIA’s offering more competition for your business than ever.

If you’re content on the lower-priced tiers, SumoFiber and XMission have already switched all customers to 100Mbps. Are you planning to pony up a little more for 10x the speed? I know I would.

XMission Gives UTOPIA Customers a Free Speed Bump

If you’re using XMission on UTOPIA, you probably noticed a nice little bonus last night: all 50Mbps customers got a bump up to the full 100Mbps for no extra charge. There’s a few people left to be switched, but it should be done within a couple of days, tops.

One thing to note is that if you aren’t seeing those speeds, you may need to upgrade your router. Most routers, even newer ones, don’t include a 1Gbps WAN port which often serves as a bottleneck. Older 802.11 a/b/g routers also create choke points on the wireless side. All said, that’s a pretty nice problem to have, isn’t it?

UTOPIA Joins the Exclusive 1Gbps Club

Today UTOPIA announced that they will be offering 1Gbps connections to every home they pass. Word on the street is that getting a connection that’s faster than your hard drive (!) should run in the neighborhood of $330-ish per month if you’re leasing the connection. Right now, only a handful of providers in the country offer such blistering speeds to residential customers.

Some other fun facts from the media day:

  • UTOPIA’s highest bandwidth customer consumes 20Gbps worth.
  • Centerville is completely built out. If you live in Centerville, you can get service right now. About 500 residents have already chosen to do so, just over 10% of total households.
  • Homes with multiple set-top boxes will have the greatest need for 1Gbps connections. Currently, 4-5 of them can saturate a 100Mbps connection.
  • You could, in theory, get 10Gbps at your home, but UTOPIA isn’t all that comfortable leaving $10K worth of electronics sitting in your house.

You can check out pictures of the event on Google+ or Facebook.

Here’s UTOPIA’s full press release: Continue reading

UTOPIA Lands DISH Network

In a huge move, UTOPIA has just announced that national satellite provider DISH Network is now a provider on the network. Scoring an A-list provider in the telecom space is a major coup and could very well prompt other established operators to sign up as providers. Packages through DISH will include Blockbuster streaming and their own brand of TV Everywhere, Sling, that will allow you to watch programs on your smartphone or tablet.

See below for the full press release. Continue reading

SB112 Fails in the Senate

SB112, the bill that would give cable companies a large tax advantage in the state of Utah, died on the Senate floor today in a 12-16 vote. While this doesn’t guarantee that a modified version of the bill won’t come back up for discussion, it seem less likely as the $7M price tag was a bit too much for the Senate to swallow. I think we can safely consider this one dead and buried for this session.

1Wire Goes Residential with SumoFiber

UTOPIA has added a new residential provider to the network via existing commercial provider 1Wire. SumoFiber will be offering 50M/50M, 100M/100M, and 1G/1G Internet and unlimited phone. Given the prices, I assume they are before the UIA costs are added in, but it’s still pretty competitive.

The good news about this addition is that it’s coming from a company with a performance record. UTOPIA has increased standards significantly for new and existing providers to try and prevent the kinds of problems we saw with Mstar and their resulting trail of wreckage. If anyone signs up for service, let us know how they do.

(Thanks to reader David for pointing out the addition.)