How To Bring UTOPIA To Your City

UPDATE: This post is badly out of date. Why not go read the latest version?

I get asked on a fairly regular basis how a regular citizen can manage to get UTOPIA rolling in their area. While there’s no magic bullet, this How To should put you on the right track.

  • Put together a strong proposal to make your case. Make a 10-minute presentation that covers why your city needs to join UTOPIA and summarize those remarks in a 1-2 page letter. It’s better to have your arguments together first and then find someone to present them to. Don’t know where to start? Grab this PowerPoint presentation and replace [My City] with the name of your city: UTOPIA Presentation
  • Identify city council members who would be interested. Look for those with a background in data-intensive fields such as technology, research, real estate or construction. They’ve likely had to work with sending or receiving large amounts of data that took forever to finish. As much as I don’t like to get partisan over here, my experience has shown that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be interested in broadband policy. Make contact with those most likely to support membership in UTOPIA before presenting to the city council as a whole. Don’t forget the try the mayor’s office while you’re at it.
  • Ask for an agenda item at your next city council meeting. Believe it or not, you too can speak to the city council about whatever you want. Find out who’s in charge of city council agenda items in your city and ask them if you can do a presentation on UTOPIA. More often than not, you can get about 10 minutes to speak. I’ve managed to get a slot at a legislative committee hearing, so it’s not that big of a deal.
  • Get prepared for your meeting. Tell friends and family about the meeting and encourage them to attend. The best people to have there are ones that will speak about how UTOPIA will help their businesses. Also make sure you get the word out to UTOPIA supporters in other cities so that you can have them testify about the benefits of UTOPIA. I’m happy to post any UTOPIA-related news or announcement here and I’m sure the folks on the Pro-UTOPIA e-mail list would be equally interested.
  • Be ready for an intense Q&A session. The city council will hammer you with financial questions. Make sure you’ve prepared by reading up on when UTOPIA expects to go revenue-positive (2012) and how much it costs the city to join (a feasibility study, no cost for non-pledging, a trust fund for pledging). Above all, don’t be afraid to defer questions to a UTOPIA representative if you don’t know the specifics. Feasibility studies are priced on a case-by-case basis and will contain information on how much sales tax revenue would need to be set aside for pledging status. Some Q&A sessions can last a half hour or longer depending on the council.
  • Plan for follow-up presentations. Cities don’t jump into these things based on a single presentation no matter how slick it might be. Plan for future city council meetings as representatives from UTOPIA, Qwest and Comcast may be invited. Make good use of the public comment periods and make sure as many supporters as possible do so as well.
  • Above all, thank the council for their time. They’re pretty busy folks who are sacrificing as much time as you are to hear what you have to say. You’re also asking them to put some money (and their future election prospects) on the line. They need to know what you appreciate their hard work and sacrifice.

Still getting stuck? Feel free to e-mail me for help. I’m glad to put together and even conduct presentations to help spread UTOPIA as far as possible. I can also put you in touch with some representatives at UTOPIA who are happy to give your council members a tour of the facilities and provide their own presentations.

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9 Responses to How To Bring UTOPIA To Your City

  1. rmwarnick says:

    Your PowerPoint is business-oriented. That’s probably appropriate for city councils. However, businesses can get fast Internet connections without having to run fiber optic cables to every house in town, at taxpayer expense.

    It looks like most households will be wanting broadband connections for entertainment and personal communication– lots of TV shows are offered via the Internet, for example. When Fox canceled “Drive,” the last two episodes were never aired and remain available only via the Net.

    Other household entertainment-oriented examples:
    * VOIP telecommunications
    * Webcams – videophones
    * Internet radio
    * Internet gaming

  2. Jesse says:

    No business can get 30Mbps both ways for $125 a month. Getting comparable speeds from a T-3 or multiple T-1s will easily run you $8000 a month.

    You’ll hear no argument from me that homes will benefit as much as businesses from fiber optic lines, though I chose to emphasize the business aspects of it for one sad reason: city councils care a lot more about what businesses think than what residents think. I figured that applications like distance learning and telecommuting would be strong selling points, even though we all know we’ll be using it for YouTube. 😉

  3. David Harrison says:

    I have long been a champion of UTOPIA and signed up several months ago (Brigham City). But our sign, along with our next door neighbor’s, disappeared a few weeks ago. Is there a shortage and we only get to display them for a short while? More importantly, I received a mailing a few days ago offering us a savings of $240 per year if we would sign up. I thought we already signed up??? Can we now sign up and save that $240? Please advise. David Harrison, 722 So 700 West, Brigham City. highflyer722@yahoo.com. Thank you.

  4. It seems like there are periodic news articles
    asserting that UTOPIA is running out of $$$
    and will be going under (financially) any
    minute. If I remember, it seems like these kids of rumors surface every 3-6 months, but then UTOPIA opens a new city, or area within
    a city, and they continue. What’s really going
    on? Are they on the brink of going under or what?? I heard a few years ago that the USDA owed UTOPIA several million $$ under a program called “Rural Utility Service”. Has UTOPIA ever received compensation for the work they’ve completed?

  5. luminous says:

    “Has UTOPIA ever received compensation for the work they’ve completed?”

    No. It’s my understanding that Utopia may be in the process of filing a lawsuit against the USDA department of rural utility services.

  6. Jesse says:

    Dan: The financial picture isn’t pretty. They’re running red ink and realistically will continue to do so for at least a few years. The SAA has been one of a few bright spots in an otherwise messy picture and is the only way they will expand for the foreseeable future barring being picked by Google or getting lots of money from the feds.

    That said, positive things are happening and the SAA is one of those things. They’re also picking up a lot of new providers that will convert existing customers and go find new ones on the network. UTOPIA has a lot of wholesale transport deals with companies since their fiber runs from Portland, OR to Las Vegas, NV. Those deals bring in tens or hundreds of thousands per month. I also hear they might finally be getting a partnership with UEN to provide some transport and participate in the federal stimulus dollars. I think a few years of this positive momentum will spell black ink.

    I keep hearing rumblings of a lawsuit involving UTOPIA. I also hear that negotiations for repayment from RUS haven’t been going well. UTOPIA is tight-lipped about what’s going on with both of these things and even if they are related. My gut tells me that the talks broke down and they’re getting ready to sue for tens of millions in owed funds and damages. Just my hunch, though; I don’t have any inside information on it.

  7. Pingback: How To Bring UTOPIA To Your City, the UIA Way « Free UTOPIA!

  8. Pingback: How To Bring UTOPIA To Your City, the UIA Way – Free UTOPIA!

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