Multimedia Edition: Mayor Becker on UTOPIA, Utah Taxes Now Conference on Muni Telecom

Coming to you today is a two-fer of audio on UTOPIA.

First up is a conversation on KCPW's Midday Metro where Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker responds to a caller question on Salt Lake City's future with UTOPIA. He's definitely supportive of local decisions regarding the matter, though he's also cautious about joining because of the slow sign-ups and cost issues involved. His solution? Get the voters to speak up and say yea or nay. Listen to the full response here (MP3 Download). h/t: Paul Alexander who called in the question and sent me the MP3 response.

Second is a panel discussion on iProvo and UTOPIA at the Utah Taxes Now Conference with Utah Taxpayers Association President Sen. Howard Stephenson, Provo Mayor Lewis Billings and UTOPIA's new Executive Director Todd Marriott. Given that this is a UTA-sponsored event and the panel discussion was titled "The Collapse of Municipal Telecom in Utah", you've gotta know that the audience was probably stacked against both iProvo and UTOPIA. For those that have been listening to the discussion on municipal networks for a long time, you probably won't find a lot new in this discussion, but it's worth listening to anyway. The full conversation can be played from here (embedded audio). h/t: Utah Policy Daily who linked the audio of the conference.

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10 Responses to Multimedia Edition: Mayor Becker on UTOPIA, Utah Taxes Now Conference on Muni Telecom

  1. Andrea says:

    Becker was a major UTOPIA proponent in the Legislature. I wonder why his enthusiasm has decreased.

  2. squash says:


    I think the enthusiasm has decreased because of the trouble they’ve run into. It’s all about setting the right expectations, and the expectations that were set in the beginning are not being met. In fact, Utopia has now been forced to go back to their member cities and ask for more money and time.

    I listened and heard a couple interesting comments. Here are my observations.

    Utopia mentioned that they are a utility and compared themselves (and the government money) to power utilities of years ago. This is I think a valid comparison to a point. It is very expensive to build this type of network, especially to the scope of Utopia’s 11 city build out. The rest of the story is of course that the majority of power utilities are run by the private sector today. Also, I think it is more accurate to compare it to telecommunications companies that were started and are still run today by the private sector. There was a lot of government oversight (and a lot of pushing to build everywhere, open up their networks etc), but the retail model was the one that worked and still survives today.

    They also mentioned briefly the $1000 to $3500 connection charge. So far, all we’ve heard is that it’s coming. They mentioned that if they knocked on doors in Utah and asked for this fee upfront, they’d be shot. I look forward to the creative solutions that were promised. I can’t wait for the day I myself can be connected to fiber, but I won’t pay $1000 to do it, and I think that goes for the vast majority of Utah consumers

  3. snacktacular says:

    Paying $1,000 to $3,500 bones to connect to Utopia is absurd. That is about the same cost you pay to Qwest, XO, Integra, AT&T to get connected to any of their high bandwidth products. Jesse, in all honesty, if you were not already connected to Utopia and you were approached to connect but had to pay those amounts would you? Let’s say you take those costs and factor those in to what your monthly costs are. Your base cost is $50 for internet, add the loop cost or the connect costs and your monthly cost over three years is $77 a month if the connect charge is 1,000. If it is the high end of $ 3,500 then your monthly over three years is $ 147 per month. This is a hard sale.

  4. Mike Taylor says:

    The upfront connection fee seems like a no-go for most households. However, I can tell you businesses will be happy to pay it because compared to say, a T1 from Qwest, it is a fraction of the monthly cost (and a whole lot faster) so it quickly pays for itself.

  5. Mike Taylor says:

    Here’s an interesting AP news article about next-generation broadband and how it’s deployment will be uneven, leaving the “haves” and “have nots”. I think this is going to shape up like the railroad of the 21st century. The cities where the railroad came through boomed while others waned.

  6. snacktacular says:

    I see pricing those speeds for business customers a major mistake for the SP’s on Utopia. Pricing needs to be different for business customers. Otherwise you are giving away for free, and business usage is much different the residential users. You cannot oversubscribe it like you do with a resi customer base.

  7. Jesse says:

    As I understand it, Mayor Becker still supports the rights of the cities to be able to experiment in this area while not being overly enthusiastic on bringing it to Salt Lake without voter approval, warts and all. I don’t think that this constitutes a change in position or any kind of inconsistency.

    I’d jump at the chance to drop $1000 to install UTOPIA in my home. I’ve crunched the numbers and when comparing similar products from Comcast and Qwest, UTOPIA would still be cheaper at today’s rates even with installation as part of the monthly fee. And when you’re done paying it, it’s gone, unlike Comcast and Qwest. It’s also worth nothing that UTOPIA plans to decrease wholesale rates to providers under this model since the retailer is now responsible for the install fee. That means even lower rates for those who pay for the installation.

    Now I don’t contest that it’ll be a hard sell. However, anyone who runs the numbers will see that UTOPIA is a great deal even with installation fees. I don’t doubt that home buyers who are made aware of UTOPIA will frequently choose to roll the install costs into their mortgage.

    Business pricing is VERY differential. The basic business connection is 30Mbps (vs. 50Mbps for residential) for $125/mo and there’s no SLA attached to that like with a T1. Most providers customize the pricing based on the kind of bandwidth guarantees and transfer a company will need. I don’t see that they’re oversubscribing it.

  8. FGF says:

    “I think this is going to shape up like the railroad of the 21st century.”

    When the Internet2 consortium was founded in 1999 it used the name Abilene Networks, named after the Abilene Railhead in Kansas. In the 1860s the Abilene Railhead represented America’s railroad frontier, which in turn represented the country’s frontier as a whole. Whether it’s the railroad analogy, the super highway analogy or an analogy to any other infrastructure vital to economic development and quality of life, they are all appropriate.

  9. Matt says:

    I’ve signed up for Utopia and it is great. It was the same cost as my slow DSL line.

    Utopia rocks.

  10. Pingback: Salt Lake City is About to Make a Broadband Blunder - Free UTOPIA!

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