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.
With Internet Service Faster Than a Centerville Wind,
UTOPIA Wires City’s Businesses for the Future
Centerville’s Mayor, UTOPIA and Wired Businesses Hold “Fiber Friday” Event
to Demonstrate Benefits of Fiber Optics
Consider these dilemmas faced daily by Utah businesses:
· An advertising agency has recently given employees the choice to work from home one day a week—a great morale booster that also reduces driving and improves air quality. But the need to send large graphics files back and forth makes it practically impossible because the internet connections at both the business and the employee’s home are too slow. The employee has no choice but to abandon what was supposed to be a great idea.
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.
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. Jog 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.
Several UTOPIA member cities are gearing up to start taking votes on the new Utah Infrastructure Agency designed to help fund new construction of the network. The Utah Taxpayers Association is trying to get people to show up at these meetings to protest the UIA and try and kill it. In their effort to do so, they continue to distort, twist, and outright lie in their efforts to rile people up.
First off, the UIA bonds are not an unconditional loan. They are funds that will be secured by payments from subscribers. If there aren’t enough subscribers to secure repayment, the money doesn’t get touched. You would think that such an arrangement would be acceptable to an organization that purports to represent taxpayers as it clearly shifts the burden from the taxpayers as a whole to the subscribers. Attempting to characterize the UIA as a big grab-bag is a big lie.
Secondly, the UTA says that UTOPIA is running a $20M deficit in “operating expenses”. The problem, however, is that their version of “operating expenses” is entirely unclear. I’m betting that they chose to include equipment depreciation and possibly even the bond payments in that figure in order to paint a much more dire picture than actually exists. For all of the accusations by the UTA that UTOPIA doesn’t disclose enough information, it’s hypocritical and extremely irresponsible of them to distort the numbers for the purposes of supporting their arguments.
Remember the last time the UTA tried to organize an anti-UTOPIA protest? UTOPIA and its supporters showed up and ended up turning half of the attendees into subscribers. Let’s show them it can be done again. Centerville meets tonight (October 19) at 7PM, Orem is October 26 at 6PM, and Payson is October 27 at 6PM. All meetings are at the respective city hall. Let’s show the UTA that lying won’t get them very far.
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.
A commenter asked about the future of UTOPIA in Centerville and a search of the city website turned up some hints from the city council meeting on January 5. According to those minutes, Centerville is considering a Special Assessment Area (SAA) to cover the city with service, but the city council hasn’t yet taken any official action. (There was also discussion of making the Mayor the new board member for the city, but no action was taken on that either.) If you’re one of the people who has been waiting, patiently or not, for UTOPIA service, your chance may come soon.
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.
As of a couple of days ago, applicants for broadband stimulus funds are now listed on the NTIA’s website. Utah has a number of applicants including the University of Utah, The Utah Transit Authority, and, not surprisingly, UTOPIA.
Several rural ILECs have also gotten into the game including Emery Telecom and Manti Tele Communications. Emery is apparently looking to deploy FTTP to beef up their triple-play offerings and replace their existing HFC CATV network. The finished product would be active Ethernet like iProvo and UTOPIA with up to 1Gbps at each address served. A separate request would use FTTN and wireless to reach more remote areas. Manti, meanwhile, is looking to use WiMax to reach more remote areas that currently do not have broadband service. Both of these projects are good news for Utahns.
Ogden City has also made an application to provide broadband access to government services and underserved residents. There is also an application for what appears to be a city-wide WiFi network. Given their reluctance to join UTOPIA, it’s rather surprising that they have done an about-face on city-provided services. My best guess is that they were holding out for someone else to pay for it.
So what about UTOPIA? They made three separate applications totaling around $54M. The only thing available is a general overview, but the requests appear to be targeted at Orem, Murray, Midvale, West Valley City, Layton, and Centerville. One of them hints at using a special assessment area (SAA) to triple the impact of at least $10.5M of the money applied for. Depending on how fast NTIA can review and approve applications, we may soon know if there will be more money for UTOPIA construction in the near term.
With applicants asking for 7 times what’s available in the first round, it will be interesting to see who makes the cut.