Last night, I dropped in on the Woods Cross city council meeting to see what would happen during the "workshop" they had planned with UTOPIA, Qwest and Comcast. I think it went well, though the reps from UTOPIA could have done a better job explaining how the system works. Comcast disclosed a few details of planned upgrades (i.e. their "PowerBoost" system now bursts downloads to 12-16Mbps) though it became very obvious to the council that their system was not nearly as good as UTOPIA.
Qwest, as usual, took a different tack. Instead of sending a live person to "answer" questions, they should have just sent a voice recording that said "sorry, we can't say anything in public. We're happy to meet with you privately to
skirt open meeting laws discuss our future plans." Nothing against the rep (he seemed like a nice guy when I talked to him after the meeting), but good grief is it suspicious when you do that kind of thing. Neither of the reps from Qwest or Comcast seemed to be particularly prepared, somewhat amazing considering that they had the questions to be answered in advance of the meeting.
I managed to get in a few good snipes during the meeting (as did a few other attendees) that seemed to shake the Comcast and Qwest reps. Comcast couldn't answer how they plan to cram 6.4Gbps of TV programming down a 4Gbps copper pipe (not including the triplicate channels they have to broadcast plus their voice and data signals) and the Qwest rep plead ignorance when I brought up the promises under the Telco Act of '96. I'm hoping that those inconsistencies will help council members lean towards UTOPIA.
A few interesting tidbits came up during the course of the meeting:
- The majority of Woods Cross, what I would consider to be an established suburb, does not have access to DSL or cable. Nobody in the town can get the top-tier 7Mbps DSL speed either. That puts the city at a considerable disadvantage with some of its neighbors, especially as it seems to grow rapidly. Given the patchy status of high-speed service, I can see why they're seriously considering UTOPIA membership.
- UTOPIA can usually build out an entire city in 6-9 months from the date the financing closes. That's some pretty fast roll-out.
- UTOPIA plans to bond all at once rather than one city at a time as new members come on-board. This pools the risk and decreases the bond interest rate and increases its rating.
- Qwest has no plans to roll out additional DSL services to Woods Cross for at least 1-2 years. That's a long time to be waiting for high-speed.
- Comcast is supposedly planning to boost speeds Real Soon Now™, potentially to double what they have been. There's no concrete speeds or time frame, however, and given that availability is the chief issue in Woods Cross, that's not a lot of consolation. Given the aforementioned bandwidth crunch, I don't know that they have the technical capability to do that either.
If you live in Woods Cross, it's critically important that you call, write or visit your mayor and city council members to let them know that you want UTOPIA in your city and why you want it. These next few weeks will make or break the deal.
UPDATE: The Davis County Clipper has a short write-up of the meeting.