Where UTOPIA is Today: A Response For Rep. Steve Urquhart

You know what? You're right. Cities shouldn't get the state to bail them out if UTOPIA calls their pledges. The key word here is if. To date, UTOPIA still hasn't used any tax money despite 18 months of construction delays from the Qwest lawsuit, being illegally obstructed from accessing utility poles and having the RUS pull a switcheroo on the loan money that left them with $11M in related expenses that didn't get reimbursed. That they've managed to suffer through that much adversity without a financial collapse is something else.

Have they made mistakes? Absolutely. Totally eating the installation cost probably wasn't the best idea, public awareness is low and their biggest challenge seems to be rolling out to areas with demand. At the same time, they've slashed the construction costs by about 25% and saved some businesses as much as $2500/mo in telecommunications costs. Cities with UTOPIA (like Murray and Midvale) have been able to attract new businesses because of the fiber optic system and have implemented advanced wide-area networks that speed city operations and save a significant amount of money. It's not all failures, but certainly is a mixed bag.

UTOPIA has learned a lot and a second chance seems appropriate given what they've learned. If they can't make a go of it after the second chance, it'd be time to close up shop and try something different. If every venture closed up shop after the first round of mistakes, nobody would ever open a business; I don't see how this is different.

On install fees: Let's do some real-world comparisons. The company that saved $2500/mo on their telecommunications was quoted $75,000 for installation from Qwest. A connection of similar speed from UTOPIA cost them a mere $3,000 in installation by comparison. We can also do a more apples-to-apples comparison of Qwest's "new" FTTN services and Comcast's DOCSIS 3.0 services.

Comcast wants to charge $150/mo for their DOCSIS 3.0 service running at 50Mbps/5Mbps; there's no word on the installation costs including the cost of the modem, though rumor has it that existing DOCSIS 1.1/2.0 modems can be flash upgraded to DOCSIS 3.0. After one year, you've paid $1800 for your Internet service. Getting 50Mbps/50Mbps service from XMission costs $55/mo. After factoring in the $1000 installation fee, you've paid $1660 for the first year of service, a net savings. It would appear that UTOPIA wins Round 1.

Now let's compare Qwest's FTTN offering. They plan to change $100/mo for 20Mbps/896Kbps for the first 12 months before the rate jumps to $115/mo (assuming, of course, that you also have phone service from them). The first year of service will cost $1200 plus the cost of the new DSL modem to support VDSL2. XMission's closest offering is 15Mbps/15Mbps for $40/mo. The first year, with installation, will run around $1480. Qwest, however, often locks consumers into 2-year contracts to secure promo pricing. In the second year, Qwest runs $2400 in total while XMission on UTOPIA is $1960. UTOPIA is still coming out on top in Round 2.

Bear in mind that both comparisons use Internet-only as their reference. If you include phone service in the mix, the payback from UTOPIA is even faster. It's also worth nothing that Comcast is likely to concentrate DOCSIS 3.0 deployments in Verizon markets where they're getting pummeled by FIOS and that Qwest will only be able to get a theoretical maximum of 40Mbps out of their FTTN project. UTOPIA takes Round 3 on speed and availability for the win.

So what's the real cost if UTOPIA called the loans in the future? Based on the new bonds that cost $500M in principle and interest over 33 years, it's just $107.14 per pledging member city household per year presuming that the full pledge is called. Orem has already managed to save over $50,000 per year on telecommunications costs using UTOPIA, enough to cover the tax burden for 500 households. With around 2100 households and businesses in Orem that I estimate are participating in UTOPIA, that's over $504,000 per year in annual Internet access savings to city residents based on current offerings from incumbents. The Fiber-to-the-Home Council estimates that users with these kinds of connections telecommute an average of one additional day per month, removing 70 vehicle trips from the roads every single day of the month.

Continuing with the comparison: with the completion of the network in Orem and a take rate similar to Provo, you're now up to over 9600 participants saving $2.3M annually and taking 320 vehicle trips per day off of the road. The total savings exceed whatever costs could be incurred even if we presume UTOPIA has to cash in the full pledge amount. This doesn't even take into account the full spectrum of financial benefits to the city including attracting new businesses coming to Utah under the USTAR program. The math simply works when you take a broader view at the secondary effects of UTOPIA.

I had my own reservations about the new bonding plan when it was first announced, but those concerns have evaporated based on the data they presented last night in Midvale. Their plan to bring the RUS cities online and double the size of the network could bring it to a size where large national providers may consider joining the network. The increased marketing should improve public awareness and drive adoption to at or above the levels enjoyed by iProvo. The install costs, while an initial sticker shock, aren't as big of a deal as the papers have made them out to be. I'm confident that the second-chance round of financing will give UTOPIA the boost it needs to succeed at meeting its financial obligations and financing the remaining build-out in its member cities.

I'd urge you to take a much closer look at the telecommunications picture before passing judgment on UTOPIA and municipal fiber. And yes, I'm still up for lunch sometime to try and explain it all.

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29 Responses to Where UTOPIA is Today: A Response For Rep. Steve Urquhart

  1. Luke says:

    Jesse, I was about to comment on that very blog, and you beat me to it. I don’t know if there is much more to add.

    Good Job!

  2. Dave says:

    Great, informative response. Thanks for your work on this website.

  3. I’ll be up north in a few weeks. Plese email me your phone number, so we can get together. Or, let me know if you have plans to come to St. George. The weather is perfect (for another month or so).

    I hope you’re right that the cities never come to the State to be bailed out. But, as I wrote, I’m doubtful.

    UTOPIA hasn’t directly hit the taxpayers yet, because it keeps going to the well. That’s what the RUS money was all about. And, remember, the pitch to the cities now is “Go further in debt on this, or we will hit your tax revenues immediately.”

    Also, it is inaccurate to claim that additional indebtedness is not a hit on the taxpayers. Governmental entities only have so much debt capacity for roads, buildings, airports, and anything else they want to finance. That capacity is being seriously burdened by this project.

    Lastly, the numbers you share regarding an upfront installation fee might make sense on paper to some consumers. However, the reality is that UTOPIA currently struggles to get/retain subscribers with free installation. Struggling businesses don’t usually increase customer numbers by significantly increasing costs to the consumer.

    It seems that municipal projects always have a scape goat — the wrong provider, delayed governmental assistance, the nefarious acts of competitors, etc. The reality is that ALL businesses have setbacks and frustrated expectations. Excellent companies tend to work through those setbacks to find success. Poor companies don’t.

    For many reasons, governments are ill-equipped to compete in the telecommunications world. In the end, municipal projects tend to stagnate progress, because they scare away competent providers that would invest but don’t want to compete with government.

  4. Jesse says:

    If the cities line up to ask the state for assistance, you’ve got my personal guarantee that I’ll be opposing it. Odds are I’ll be living in a pledging member city by then anyway.

    I don’t know that it’s fair to say that UTOPIA “keeps going to the well”. They have the initial bond as well as what they thought was a good opportunity to build some of the cities out for even less money. Had the RUS kept their promises, UTOPIA would have somewhere around $30M cash on hand to complete their build progress. Right now, they’re asking for just enough credit to complete the RUS cities and get far, far away from the USDA. This current request is the second chance, nothing more.

    A large part of UTOPIA’s take rate issues deal with poor public knowledge. Anyone familiar with or involved in the project will tell you that the marketing stank. They’ve also had a lot of problems getting into MDUs and office complexes. I’ve met many who had to get tenants in either to present a unified front to the building owner before any action was taken. I don’t think these problems are likely to repeat and I feel confident that the take rates can comfortably get up to 35% or greater based on my observations of other muni fiber projects. It’s also worth noting that UTOPIA has an enviable 0.5% churn rate meaning excellent customer retention and satisfaction.

    It’d be just as easy for a private company to run into the same issues that UTOPIA has. After all, most CLECs went out of business as ILECs stonewalled repair requests and blocked access at every turn. Can an upstart afford to take Qwest to the mat on these things? No, not at all. This creates a significant barrier to new entrants and amounts to illegal market manipulation. Consider also that at the meeting in West Valley City last night, the representative from Comcast stated that the big cable companies have an agreement not to compete in each others markets. That sounds a like like collusion and while Qwest wouldn’t admit it, we know they’re in on it too. This is probably why competing cable and phone systems don’t exist despite the promises of the Telco Act of ’96.

    I don’t think that we can say that the game is over just yet. These projects are in their infancy and the idea of open wholesale networks is very new in the telco space. Besides, I have yet to hear any alternatives that increase marketplace competition and deliver next-generation speeds. I’m certainly open to suggestions.

  5. Mike Taylor says:

    Steve wrote: “The numbers you share regarding an upfront installation fee might make sense on paper to some consumers. However, the reality is that UTOPIA currently struggles to get/retain subscribers with free installation. Struggling businesses don’t usually increase customer numbers by significantly increasing costs to the consumer.”

    Steve, we’ll likely see more on the upfront install costs. Perhaps Utopia would offer discounts on the install if customers were willing to sign contracts. In addition, the service providers on the network might offer their own subsidies for install with contracts or other options.

    Also, I don’t know how you can say they struggle to retain customers, as Jesse pointed out, they have a very, very low churn rate. Once customers sign on, they don’t seem to be leaving. As far as getting new customers, that is changing as well, UTOPIA is currently experiencing a very good growth rate. The marketing needs some work, but they have acknowledged that and plan to work on that with this new plan.

  6. Warren Woodward says:

    I can tell you that the goal is to offer service at even lower prices than currently exist in order to help mitigate the installation costs, driven by a reduction in the wholesale cost to the service providers.

    As things stand now, however, I do not know for sure if that target has been met. Its tied to other advancements that will help make UTOPIA even more attractive.

    Jesse, your analysis is spot on.

    Funny story about retention. We had a UTOPIA subscriber forget to pay his bill earlier this week, and the tech who took the call had to ask me what to do because he’d never seen a UTOPIA cancellation or expiration (and in truth, it had been so long since I had, I also forgot the procedure *I developed*). We have about one thousand UTOPIA subscribers.

  7. Vociferous says:

    Nice write up Jessie — your passion is appreciated. Now that you have exposed real price comparisons –if we could just figure out how to expose that Qwest is really the one paying for those full page Utah Taxpayer Advertisements in the paper.

  8. travis says:

    “Steve, we’ll likely see more on the upfront install costs. Perhaps Utopia would offer discounts on the install if customers were willing to sign contracts.”

    This would potentially make it more appealing to customers, but my guess is it’s not likely to happen immediately. The motivation behind the unusually high installation cost is basically this:

    At first, UTOPIA was paying the up-front installation costs with the expectation they would earn that money back over time as a component of the wholesale transport fees paid by service providers. Service providers, in turn, pass these costs on to customers as part of your familiar monthly service fees.

    Unfortunately, given UTOPIA’s cash position, they can no longer afford to wait several years to earn back the costs required to connect a subscriber. With subscribers paying the up-front connection costs, UTOPIA wouldn’t need to recover that money through monthly wholesale transport fees, and so wholesale transport fees would be reduced. This means those UTOPIA customers who pay the connection fee should see a significant reduction in their monthly service fees.

    Before, the cost of connecting homes to UTOPIA was embedded in the monthly service fees–the same way it is for connecting homes to Comcast and Qwest networks. Now, it is a lot more obvious how much of your monthly fees go to pay for infrastructure.

    Realizing that a $1500 connection fee (or whatever it ends up being) is a barrier for many households, UTOPIA has been working out an arrangement where homeowners could opt to finance the connection cost through a bank, and pay it off over time. For customers who choose to finance their connection, the payments on this borrowed money plus lower service fees will sum to an amount that should still be favorable when compared to offerings from incumbent providers.

    For customers who don’t immediately balk at the high costs, the net monthly costs for UTOPIA service should be similar or maybe even better than what they are currently. The whole plan is a bit unorthodox to the way most consumers get their services now, but it unburdens UTOPIA from having to bankroll all the installation costs with money they don’t have.

  9. Jesse,

    Marketplace competition is alive and well without UTOPIA. I’d argue that it could be even more vibrant without UTOPIA (a.k.a., the Government’s company).

    Cable companies and satellite TV providers are locked in tremendous competition — that is driving up capital expenditures and driving down prices.

    Part of cable’s investment includes DOCSIS 3.0, which yields faster speeds than all current UTOPIA providers offer. Cable companies are migrating to DOCSIS 3.0, in order to have a competitive advantage in their Triple Play packages over satellite companies and DSL Triple Play packages. And, they will do it at price points that are kept low by the competition.

    Private investments make more sense where they won’t compete with the Government, which can pour money into situations apparently without end or logic. In areas where government is backing a marketplace participant, private investment and technological upgrades are discouraged. Thus, stagnation can occur.

    I wouldn’t be surprised, if we shortly see that UTOPIA cities have frozen the private market and that government monopoly providers will charge higher rates for inferior service in UTOPIA cities.

    The free market might be slower than Government, but over the long run it is better.

  10. Bad ending to that last comment. The free market typically is much faster and more flexible than government. But government does have the ability to see a target in the distance and quickly throw a lot of money at it; and then the market, having possibly been bumped forward, stays at that point for far too long, as private capital and expertise is scared away.

  11. Mike Taylor says:

    Steve, I completely agree with you when you said “The free market typically is much faster and more flexible than government.” I would add to that that the free market is also more efficient and effective than the government because there exists a Darwinian principle that weeds out unprofitable companies while government projects can become inefficient and there’s no motivation for them to improve. So I’m a pretty free market guy.

    Why then would someone like me support a government project like UTOPIA?

    Private corporations and investment serves the market very well as long as there is a healthy competitive market. When there is not, what is to keep corporations in check? For example, what if Utah Power one day decided to increase the price of it’s electricity by 50%. What would stop them? The threat of customers leaving to a different power company? No, because there is no other power company. That’s because the power grid is infrastructure, which makes up a market offering that economists call a “natural monopoly”. It doesn’t make sense to have two or more competing power grids, so instead we opt to have one company doing power, one company doing sewer, etc. Could you imagine digging multiple sewers so we could have a healthy competitive marketplace?

    When it comes to building infrastructure like this, it’s an area that government naturally gets involved in because of the natural monopolies that exist which prevent a normal competitive landscape. This is already acknowledge and Qwest and Comcast, for example, are regulated today by both the FCC and the Utah Public Utilities Comission. If a “free market” truly existed for telecommunications infrastructure, there would be no need to regulate these phone companies at all. The fact that Utah uses it’s PUC to regulate the existing telecom providers already acknowledges that this is a natural monopoly where services should be controlled by the government since a true competitive landscape doesn’t exist.

    In the case of Utopia, one reason this open, government-run, wholesale fiber infrastructure is necessary is because of the refusal of telecom incumbents to serve their markets well and provide for real competition. DSL is still not available in many parts of Utah, for example. Telecommunications infrastructure is like the railroad of the 21st century. It is becoming increasingly critical for businesses and individuals to operate in an era dominated by technology.

    In a discussion on Slashdot, one user suggested as you did Steve that telecom, “[is] a very competitive business, ravenously so”. The response by another poster was, “Yeah, 2.5 options make for a very competitive market. You (or other monopoly) own my phone lines, while my cable monopoly owns my cable lines. High-latency satellite connections, slow-a** dialup (still over the monopoly’s lines, BTW), or “unlimited” (5GB cap) cell data plans are the rest of the .5 options. I think a lot of businesses would be quite happy to have such an absence of competition in their markets. Even Brian Roberts (CEO of Comcast) once mentioned in an article that they have no competition and don’t consider DSL even close to competition.”

    With Utopia, the government isn’t involved in selling any service, only providing the infrastructure the service is carried on. Any company can provide services through the infrastructure, giving the consumer real choice, creating a thriving competitive market, and driving down the costs of services for the end-consumer. There are also other benefits, such as expanding the service areas into places that incumbent telcom providers find unprofitable since Utopia has the goal to bring service to “every household and business”.

    In a way, Utopia actually helps private business and the free market more than the current status quo.

    What do you do if Comcast blocks a web page or disconnects your service and you are not in an area where Qwest serves DSL? Don’t believe this scenario? Well, a guy here in Utah got disconnected from Comcast with no explanation and no recourse. Apparently the “unlimited” Internet wasn’t really unlimited, yet they wouldn’t tell him how much was too much. Read about it here:


    In conclusion, I believe in the free market, but the free market doesn’t make sense if all you get is a monopoly. In this case, telecom infrastructure constitues a natural monopoly which Utopia aims to solve.

  12. luminous says:

    qwests FTTN does not represent Marketplace competition, qwest is not required to share their FTTN network with other internet providers like they have been with their current DSL, their FTTN network it fact is designed to eliminate the likes of xmission, sisna, mstar. And at only 896k upload it is merely a slightly faster dsl connection incapable of many web2.0 services. And it is still heavily distant limited so being to far from the co box means no FTTN access.

    UTOPIA represents the number 1 fastest internet access in america, nothing else comes close to the UTOPIA network, not verizons FIOS, qwests FTTN, comcasts DOCSIS 3.0, or AT&T Uverse fiber. Utopia is the only network that has the same upload and download speed making services such as 2 way HD video phone possible and cheap, its the only network using standard’s based network equipment its all fiber ethernet, its not a shared system like cable each house/business has its own dedicated fiber so it can be used to provide reliable bandwidth guaranties to customers.

  13. FGF says:

    Muni FTTH projects are the main driver of telecom competition on the Wasatch Front and by a large margin. The evidence of this is becoming overwhelming. To describe the oligopoly of regions served by only incumbants, satellite and the remnants of CLECs as competitive is far off the mark.

  14. Jesse says:

    Marketplace competition is alive and well without UTOPIA.

    The question is: where? Most communities have a choice between Big Cable and Big Telco. Some can pick one or the other. Many (like Woods Cross) have neither as an option. As has been noted, Qwest’s efforts to shut out competing retailers with their FTTN network isn’t going to make it better at all. Sure, the 700MHz auctions hold interesting possibilities, but you can bet that the prices will be high and stay high while Verizon (the national winner) tries to pay down the $10B license and the network construction.

    It’s also worth noting that we have fewer ISPs today than we did in 1997. Why is this? Dial-up providers had, in essence, an open network that allowed for dozens of competing operators. With cable’s closed network and the incumbent telco giving their retail DSL operations preferential treatment over competitors, the well of competition has dried right up. The only solution to this is a move back to an open network, just like the kind UTOPIA provides.

    Cable companies and satellite TV providers are locked in tremendous competition — that is driving up capital expenditures and driving down prices.

    False. Cable television rates have been rising significantly faster than inflation since 1992, sometimes as much as 300% the rate of inflation.

    Part of cable’s investment includes DOCSIS 3.0, which yields faster speeds than all current UTOPIA providers offer.

    DOCSIS 3.0 is hooking up a fire hose to a drinking straw. It doesn’t matter how fast the technology is, the backbone simply cannot support it. Coax tops out at 4Gbps whereas fiber tops out at 14,000Gbps. Over 3/4 of that coax is dedicated to television signals leaving a scant 1Gbps to be divided between anywhere from 500 to 2000 users. Unless cable operators have some plan in place to replace the coax or have some new miracle technology to increase bandwidth, the DOCSIS 3.0 roll outs will be a massive failure. Robert X. Cringely wrote a lot more about this upcoming bandwidth crunch.

    I wouldn’t be surprised, if we shortly see that UTOPIA cities have frozen the private market and that government monopoly providers will charge higher rates for inferior service in UTOPIA cities.

    Currently, Qwest and Comcast offer inferior services for higher rates. Their speeds are slower, their customer service is notoriously bad and their networks use inferior technology. I have yet to heard a single UTOPIA subscriber tell me that they received an inferior service at a higher price. The ultra-low churn rate backs this up.

    Given the actions of the phone company over the last 130+ years and the subsequent lack of motivation for cable companies to be anything more than just a little bit better, I have little confidence that we’ll see true competition in the telecommunications space without promoting open networks that foster competitive service from multiple retail providers. Unless you and other legislators are willing to pass a ban on vertical monopolies to turn the cable and phone systems into open networks with true competition between retail providers, I don’t see that we have any other option but to support projects like UTOPIA.

  15. luminous says:

    DOCSIS 3.0 is a stop gap system, that 150mb connection is shared for the entire neighborhood requires the space of 4 to 10 tv channels, DOCSIS 3.0 works by using more then one channel unlike DOCSIS 1.0/2.0, the total upload capacity is 108mb.

    image that being shared with 100-200 homes even if you kick 8channels off the wire to get a total aggregate of 304mb to share.

    the more bandwidth they put on DOCSIS 3.0 the less tv channels they can provide, comcast has already been preparing for this by heavily overcompressing their digital channels to fit them into less bandwidth at the cost of picture quality.

  16. Regarding marketplace competition and good services w/o UTOPIA, look to little old St. George, Utah. Baja Broadband (my client, as I have disclosed several times before) took over an undercapitalized Charter system 18 months ago. Since then, Baja has plowed in capital and continues to improve the offerings, in order to compete w/ several other companies in the market. Baja keeps improving products and service and keeps doubling speeds. It now offers 10/1 Mbps (20/2 next month) and excellent video and telephony services for $99/month.

    Had St. George become a UTOPIA member, it is extremely doubtful that the private sector would have brought money to the table to purchase/improve the system, in order to then compete against government. And, given the track record of UTOPIA, it is extremely doubtful that St. George would have been built out. But, Baja’s services are ubiquitous in its cities.

  17. James says:

    They aren’t competing against the government. Anyone can provide Internet access over Utopia — Utopia just provides last mile transport for private Internet connections. They’re just bringing fiberoptic cabling to a centralized location.

    Since the last mile is effectively a natural monopoly this is a place where it can be done more efficiently than the private sector. The capital required to build the fiber network is exactly the problem for small Internet businesses, and the Internet connections themselves are entirely different products from the last mile connectivity.

    ‘Cable and telco competition’ is hardly competition at all. Utopia is just a modern model of how things worked in the dialup ISP days, hence why so many ISPs existed in those days and so much competition. That DSL was improperly regulated is why they are all dead now, well, at least where I live, which I admit is not Utah. Kind of hoping Utopia’s model succeeds and is replicated elsewhere though.

    -James, Ohio

  18. FGF says:

    The hypothetical that if St. George had joined UTOPIA the private sector may not have invested in the Charter assets is valid. However, while Baja may continue to invest in network upgrades and expansion in St. George the network infrastructure is not comparable to UTOPIA or iProvo. The current service offerings may be somewhat comparable but the potential capacity and capabilities are not. St. George’s opportunities for economic expansion would be better served for decades and generations to come with an open access FTTH system which can offer far more robust competition and services. Seeing as the last mile of a FTTH system is a natural monopoly (as are water treatment plants and electrical grids) it seems reasonable to advocate that the public own this piece of the network.

  19. Luke says:

    Steve – “Part of cable’s investment includes DOCSIS 3.0, which yields faster speeds than all current UTOPIA providers offer.”

    For the most part Jesse already responded to this, but I had to add my 2 cents.

    Initially the key words in your sentence are “faster speeds than CURRENT UTOPIA Providers off.” The initial UTOPIA Speeds were more than competitive at 10Mbps symmetrical. However not long after they decided to give it a 5Mbps bump in both directions.

    Recently MStar, followed closely by XMission, began to offer 50Mbps services. Now I’m only talking residential. As someone else mentioned on your blog I do believe businesses can order up to 100Mbps. This is all symmetrical. Tell me what incumbent provider, even with DOCSIS 3.0 are going to match this?

    I’ll tell you, none. Even should they get close the the download, the upload will be practically non-existent.

    But should they resolved that problem with some amazing breakthrough, UTOPIA simply ups their offerings, maybe do a little bit of upgrades on the transceivers, and they can keep on going.

    So let’s not compare what UTOPIA has this second, to what MAY be available from some provider someday in the future.

  20. Jesse says:

    DOCSIS 3.0 doesn’t have the technical ability to exceed 108Mbps on the upload side whether you use 4-channel or 8-channel configurations. It’s also worth noting that UTOPIA providers are currently offering Transparent LAN Services (TLS) up to 1Gbps between locations with UTOPIA, something that cable can’t do.

  21. Capt. Video says:

    So….it’s 6 months since this series of posts asking “Where is UTOPIA TODAY?”

    4 months since the post announcing Todd Marriott as the new Director of UTOPIA.

    …and we still don’t know anymore today than we did back then!

    UTOPIA has made NO effort to keep the public informed or answer that question. “Where is UTOPIA Today?”

    UTOPIA is a operating with public funds (or borrowed money that the public will have to pay back starting in 2 years), they should make some effort to keep the public informed as to where they stand? Are they meeting expectations of costs, revenues and subscriber growth?

    Where is UTOPIA Today? I would say we know no more about that today than we did 6 months ago.

    …and I think that’s sad!

  22. Jesse says:

    I don’t think that’s a realistic assessment. We know that they have signed several new providers, issued several new RFPs to resume construction, gave general details on when and where that construction will be, hiring a new director of marketing, started paying their staff again…

    You may be unhappy with the level of details, but to say that there is nothing? That’s absurd.

  23. Mike Taylor says:

    There definitely is something going on at UTOPIA, but the details have been sparse. I hope the wait is worth it. As a UTOPIA supporter, I have been willing to give the new management team some time to get on their feet, but my support isn’t unlimited. I expect to hear a lot more about plans and direction before the end of the year.

  24. Capt. Video says:

    I am referencing nothing from UTOPIA that’s official and helps tell us where they stand.

    They have hired people and issued RFP’s and there are RUMORS of new service providers.

    But none of that really tells us where they stand…how they are doing in a business sense.

    I’ve said before it’s hard to know if construction is starting as planned or “on time” if no-one steps up to say when construction will start until it’s about started or already started.

    I heard construction would start in Aug. but even that was NOT official word from UTOPIA. So perhaps they are behind schedule and perhaps not. It’s easy to hide problems if you never set goals. Much like Broadweave saying we are doing better than projected but not sharing the projection or how well they are doing.

    Hard to know if you are spending more than planned or bring in less revenue than planned if no-one says what’s expected and then what’s coming in and going out the door.

    No-one would judge a business or think they knew how they were doing based upon them hiring a Marketing Director or knowing they are paying their staff (and not knowing if the amount they are paying in within budget) or if revenues are going to cover those payments.

    So I don’t mean to say they have done nothing, but we really still don’t know where Utopia is today….as a business.

    UTOPIA needs to set goals (public goals) and then show progress toward those goals so we can know where they are? How they are doing?

  25. luminous says:

    fiber has been pulled through the conduit up gordon ave, you can see 3-4 poles that connect to the utopia CO building before it goes underground and i saw some guys pulling cable through the orange conduit from a large black spool a few streets from me.

    That said i have to agree with the capt’n on this one, Utopia has been keeping us all in the dark even on information that would not be helpful to Qwest and Comcast.

    We have been told that utopia may have new providers soon, but their is still no word on who they actually are.

    I am thinken that maybe a GRAMA request may be a good solution and will probably figure out what it takes to this weekend and spit one off.

  26. Jesse says:

    If your goal is more disclosure of information, I think it would be more productive to e-mail your concerns to UTOPIA staff and board members rather than complain loudly about the lack of updates. Shaming rarely works as well as we’d like to think it does.

  27. Capt. Video says:

    I’ll agree with Jesse that asking UTOPIA staff or Board members may work. But each of us should not have to ask. They should issue reports and press releases to the public.

    Seeking a GRAMA however is not shaming. If you get information, it just asking for what is legally yours. Public Information. But I do agree we should just ask for the information and only think of forcing disclosure if asking does not work.

    I think we all agree that UTOPIA has a moral responsibility even if not a legal responsibility to provide information to the public (that would not provide their competitors with important secrets).

    Why is not UTOPIA saying, “We have signed an agreement with “x” new service providers and they will start offering service on “x” date.” or “We plan to start construction on “x” date.” or issue the standard information after a city issues and awards an RFP…who submitted and who was awarded the RFP?

    We are looking to UTOPIA for them to “do the right thing” and keep the public informed. Set goals and issue reports so we know if they are making progress toward those goals.

  28. Jesse says:

    After meeting with some higher-ups from Veracity yesterday and hearing their confidence that things have drastically improved for the better, I’m willing to cut UTOPIA some slack on public disclosure for the time being.

    That said, I have a limit as well. If there isn’t some big announcement by sometime in November, the original deadline for hooking up the RUS cities, I’ll probably be making some calls and sending some e-mails.

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