UTOPIA Starts Construction Season

After many, many months of inaction, UTOPIA is finally starting to move some more fiber into the ground starting with Centerville. This is the start of wiring up anchor institutions using the federal broadband grants, money that should touch most member cities. It won’t get the fiber all the way to your house, but it will wire schools, hospitals, libraries, and other government buildings which will make hooking up neighborhoods much easier and cheaper.

So what do you need to do to get service when it rolls by near you? Go to UTOPIA’s website and register your interest. They will be using those registrations to identify places to market to. If your city is part of the UIA, you’ll be able to get the install cost rolled into your monthly fees. If your city is not part of the UIA or is not a UTOPIA member city, you need to go talk to your city council to get that fixed.

UTOPIA on the Way to Centerville

Yeah, I know, you’ve heard it before. This time, though, UTOPIA has a sack full of federal dollars to financing building out the middle-mile infrastructure in Centerville. Does this mean service in your neighborhood? Not entirely. The construction will get as far as the substations in the city, but getting it into your house means getting enough of your interested neighbors to sign up for service via the new UIA plan. ┬áJog on over to UTOPIA’s interest form and get your name on the list to be notified if/when they’re ready to build out your neighborhood.

Read more from the Clipper.

What does the broadband stimulus mean for UTOPIA?

Now that UTOPIA has $16.2M in federal funding, the question is what it’s going to do. The money itself is specifically to hook up “anchor institutions” such as schools, libraries, healthcare facilities, and government buildings. This money will be used to run fiber to over 400 buildings in Perry, Payson, Midvale, Murray, Centerville, Layton, Orem, and West Valley City. With those connections in the ground, it will be much less expensive to build out to nearby neighborhoods. That is, provided that your city joined the UIA and is willing to finance the cost of installations. A few cities are either in opposition to or on the fence about joining the UIA, so the fiber would stop at those anchor institutions. Time is limited to get them on the boat, so make sure you’re hounding them about joining.

And if you want to, go take a look at the original press release.

BREAKING: UTOPIA Scores $16.2M in Stimulus Funding

The Obama Administration announced today a new round of broadband stimulus funding that includes $16.2M for UTOPIA. That money can go a really long way towards deploying more of the network in UTOPIA’s footprint and can, at the average install cost, cover around 5400 additional homes. UTOPIA plans to hold an event at the state capitol tomorrow at 10AM to explain the details.

Source: WhiteHouse.gov (warning: PDF)

h/t: Stimulating Broadband

The Broadband Stimulus is an Abject and Absolute Failure

I usually spend a lot of time checking my non-broadband opinions at the door. If anyone cares about my political leanings outside of telecommunications, they can find my other blog with great ease. In this case though, I’ve got more than a few choice words for the broadband stimulus and how it has failed to improve anything at all. In fact, I believe it has only made things worse.

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What exactly does UTOPIA's press release mean?

After the first read-through of UTOPIA’s press release, I wasn’t entirely sure what they were trying to say. In fact, most of the press release seems to allude to some sort of ethereal plan to bring the network out to 20,000 more subscribers as quickly as possible. Given the financial situation that UTOPIA is currently in, I was left scratching my head. That is, until I read the last paragraph of the press release.

As we all know, UTOPIA doesn’t have any capital to use for expansion. Barring repayment from RUS or getting awarded stimulus money, I doubt there will be spare change rattling around for several years. All of the eggs are currently in the SAA basket since it’s the only way to finance building things out. Part of the problem with the SAA is the execution time required. You have to pick a specific area to be a part of the SAA. If it’s too small, it won’t be financially self-sustaining or require an unreasonably high participation rate. If it’s too large, you could easily spend a couple of years canvassing to find enough participants. Then, after months of finding the people who want service, you have to spend a few more months getting the city council to approve the bond for the SAA, then wait for the money to come in, then, after many moons, finally start digging trenches and laying fiber. It’s a time-consuming process that could be derailed at any time by the saber-rattling of the Utah Taxpayers Association, Qwest, or any number of anti-UTOPIA factions.

Now this is the statement that sticks out:

Under this next phase of growth, the eleven pledging cities would create a new bond and release funds incrementally as demand is demonstrated.

In other words, UTOPIA cities will go ahead and approve the bonds now to get the financial side rolling, then go find and form the SAAs. This not only accelerates the deployment schedule by months, it also allows for much smaller participant areas, maybe even as few as several dozen. That’s great news for residents of member cities who want service but can’t get a couple hundred neighbors to sign up as well. Once you have enough people to jump in, construction could start the next week. It’s the SAA improved and evolved.

If you live in a pledging city, now is the time to go to UTOPIA’s website to register your interest for service. Get your neighbors to do it. And your friends, family, and even that guy down the road with the busted washing machine on his porch. (You never know; he might tune into the DIY Network and get inspired to do something about it.)

Round 2 BTOP Applicants Are Posted

(h/t: Stimulating Broadband)

The Round 2 broadband stimulus applicants are now posted on BroadbandUSA.gov and it looks like Utah applicants are few and far between this time. UTOPIA, UEN, and Ogden have all reapplied for funding and are joined by the Ute and Paiute tribes as well as a rehabilitation center in Salt Lake City. The number of applicants posted so far is half what it was in the first round, so it is entirely likely that Utah may be getting a larger slice of that pie.

UTOPIA Applications for Broadband Stimulus Rejected in Round 1

The NTIA has started sending out rejection notices to broadband stimulus applicants and has been updating its online database with hundreds of applicants that did not get approved in the first round. Among those are all three of UTOPIA’s applications. Despite rejection in Round 1, UTOPIA can still apply for Round 2 which will be less restrictive on application requirements.

That said, it’s entirely possible (and in my estimation, highly probable) that UTOPIA won’t get funding at all. BTOP seems to be focused on new projects rather than existing ones and is focusing on the most rural areas. If that’s the case, the SAA will be the only way to finance any future construction and participants will have to bear a higher cost.

(h/t: Stimulating Broadband)

BREAKING: Gov. Herbert Recommends UTOPIA for Broadband Stimulus

Peter Pratt at StimulatingBroadband.com tipped me off that Gov. Herbert has made his recommendations to NTIA and that all three of UTOPIA’s proposals are on the list. This could pump over $57M into the network at a time when capital for expansion is rather difficult to come by. The money could be ready to use as early as February. While this isn’t the final word on which projects will be approved, the NTIA is very likely to go along with the recommendations from the states. The feds didn’t give independent reviewers a lot of time to screen applications before sending them to the states.

The money will be set aside for rural and underserved areas of member cities, so expect to see the money flow into Lindon, Centerville, Payson, Brigham City, Perry, and any leftover portions of Tremonton first. Residents in these cities are very likely to see a sharply reduced cost for an SAA (most likely) or the return of the free install (quite unlikely). Overall, this will mean a big expansion of UTOPIA availability which can only help the bottom line. UTOPIA’s new management will likely have a targeted build plan meant to maximize new subscribers; previously, the building had been willy-nilly.

UTOPIA isn’t the only winner in Herbert’s recommendations. UEN and the UTA picked up endorsements as did several projects from the Navajo Nation. Emery Telecom also got the nod for its three proposals to bring FTTP to its service areas in rural Utah, no doubt to unify its separate CATV and phone systems as part of the upgrade. (Seriously, guys, kudos on being one of the few rural ILECs doing something so ambitious.) There’s also an application to build a community WiFi cloud in Washington County.

All in all, it’s good news for Utah’s broadband.