Mstar Says It's Still on UTOPIA

I asked Mstar directly if they are still on UTOPIA and got the following response from Henry Rodriguez, Customer Service Manager:

The change to the UTOPIA website must be an administrative oversight, as Mstar continues to be the largest and most experienced service provider on the UTOPIA network. Any questions about UTOPIA’s website should be sent directly to the UTOPIA staff.

Forum commenter DIE-HARD has reported that he is an Mstar customer and hasn’t experienced any change in service or received any kind of notification of changes. I also put in an inquiry to one of my contacts at UTOPIA, but I haven’t heard anything back yet.

UPDATE: I’ve heard back from UTOPIA who said it is a temporary measure. They’ve started selling in Tremonton as has been rumored on the forum and wanted to make sure that Mstar would be prepared for a large influx of new customers before they’re listed.

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26 Responses to Mstar Says It's Still on UTOPIA

  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh Maybe MSTAR doesn’t get to sign up any more people until they pay their bill?

    Total guess but since MSTAR didn’t pay iProvo and used that debt as the buyout w/ Broadweave wondering if same issue of not paying the bills with UTOPIA is happening.

  2. Ben Saunders says:

    Wow Anonymous! What a guesser you are. 🙂 LOL. You must be pyschic or just maybe anyone could guess at anytime that Mstar has not paid their bill and be right…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well in my case it was just a guess.

    Actually I would be surprised if this is the case since it seems that the tail wags the dog and MSTAR gets away with everything.

    Owe the bank a dollar and they own you.. Owe the bank a million dollars and you own the bank.

  4. Capt. Video says:

    Sound like bullshit to me!

    So UTOPIA decided (without approval/agreement from Mstar) to take Mstar off the UTOPIA web site to “save” them from getting overwhelmed with calls for service from Tremonton?

    It’s so nice of UTOPIA to be looking out for Mstar in such a way. Knowing what’s best for them and saving them from the horrors of customers (not only in Tremonton, but in even older UTOPIA cities like Orem and Lindon) from calling them for services.

    …and what about customers in Tremonton that want the triple play? UTOPIA tells them to just keep Comcast’s video service?

    This sounds fishy and I’m sure will prove to be bullshit.

    Considering the size of Tremonton the marketing done there and press releases from UTOPIA, and the take rate for UTOPIA, I suspect no one would be “overwhelmed” by the demand for service.

  5. Jesse says:

    I’m sure it’s not the whole story. Mstar could owe UTOPIA a bunch of money. Or maybe they aren’t equipped to add new accounts. Or maybe they’re trying to get away from UTOPIA and give the customers to someone else. Or any number of things, really. Right now, we have no idea.

    One thing I do know is that it would not be in UTOPIA’s best interests to channel Mayor Billings and trash-talk a provider in a public venue. Public infighting undermines confidence even more than secrecy.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if I lived in Tremonton could I sign up w/ MSTAR. Or are they blocked. Just because the website doesn’t mention it, they could still have aU access and place orders.

    Or UTOPIA has cut them off completely. That would be interesting.

    I wonder if UTOPIA is holding off on the announcement of Tremonton until they have those mysterious new providers. That would make some sense. Either that or they are idiots.

  7. Bob says:

    I live in Tremonton and I inquired about getting Utopia, but I was told it is still a couple of months away for residential customers.

  8. g1 says:

    the new provider is fibernet. There just in discussion with utopia and how the installs will done in house or utopia installes

  9. Jeff says:

    MStar has owed UTOPIA a substantial amount of money…. for some months now. (at least 12+)

    And no offence against Henry @ MStar…. but he’s not exactly be in the position to comment on the status of MStar’s UTOPIA relationship.

    Lets see if I get this right:

    MStar, is by far the biggest “installer” on the network. ie: MStar installs constitute 75% of the weekly installs.

    MStar owes UTOPIA lots of money.

    UTOPIA lays off many install crews.

    MStar no longer on the UTOPIA website.

    My educated guess? UTOPIA is no longer doing installs for MStar, and has pulled MStar off the UTOPIA website; until MStar pays up, in full.

    Someone should call MStar and try to order a new install. My money is on them telling you that UTOPIA is no longer doing installs. When in reality, UTOPIA is no longer doing *MStar* installs.

    Again, just an educated guess.

  10. Capt. Video says:

    I’m also just guessing…but I’m guessing you are wrong?

    I’ll guess Mstar has elected to not serve Tremonton for good business reasons (4 hour round trip to send an installer of tech to a home?).

    I’ll guess that Mstar will install you in Orem, but not Tremonton?

    UTOPIA, which needs all the customers it can get, would be foolish to not allow it’s biggest (and ONLY triple play) service provider to not add customers.

    That would be like cutting off your nose to spite your face? Mstar is directing customers that call about getting installed in Tremonton to the other UTOPIA service providers. A favor to UTOPIA and other service providers. Something they don’t have to do, so that makes me think there is no bad blood over the decision on Mstar’s part?

    But you could be right and I could be completely wrong on this.

  11. UtahTeacher says:

    Randomly discussed cable arrangements with a neighbor here in Orem today. He just dropped M-Star for Comcast triple play along with another family in the neighborhood. He HATES M-Star’s customer service and glitches in TV/internet service.

    I said I’d heard bad things about M-Star, but that I didn’t like Comcast’s service either. He and his wife quickly retorted that they thought it was head and shoulders above that of M-Star. He said he told the installer they could get anyone to switch if they got a hold of the M-Star customer list.

    My Veracity/Nuvont internet is awesome, but the phone and customer service has always been spotty as well. My neighbor said he believed that local customer service would never match a national company like Comcast. I don’t know if it’s just perception, but Comcast is winning the PR battle in my small circles.

  12. Ben Saunders says:

    Capt. Video,

    You are wrong on this. Mstar is way, way behind on paying Utopia and there comes a time that it can go no further. Yea they need all the customers they can get, but if Mstar won’t pay then those new Mstar customers are nothing but a liability.

  13. Jeff says:

    Ben Saunders is dead on.

    “Head Count” means nothing on the network if the provider with the head count is not paying their bills. Think about it 😉

  14. Capt. Video says:

    I agree a customer you are not being paid for is not a customer, however I was under the understanding that while Mstar may owe UTOPIA money from the past, they have been paying all current due amounts.

    If that is correct, UTOPIA is currently being paid for all existing and new customers, with a past due Mstar balance that may also be being slowly caught up?

    Therefore any new customers would be customers that were being paid for?

  15. Jeff says:

    If thats the case – then I am wrong. If Mstar is coming current – then good for them. Time will tell.

  16. Capt. Video says:

    I think the post from Utah Teacher supports my saying that having fiber is not what really matters.

    It’s more about “providing a service people want, at a price they are willing to pay”. That “service” rolls together things like network speeds, dependability and customer service.

    As I’ve mentioned before, the TV glitches are 100% UTOPIA problems and not related to Mstar. This problem has cost Mstar (and therefore UTOPIA) many customers.

    The video problem is directly related to the set top boxes. The set top boxes were selected by UTOPIA, and are owned by UTOPIA and leased to Mstar.

    This has been a known problem for years which UTOPIA has not addressed despite numerous complaints from Mstar.

    This problem also effects customer service perception as customers call in over and over on the same problem, which is never fixed. As the customer service can do nothing to help them the customer becomes frustrated and sees it as poor customer service.

    I am not trying to remove Mstar customer service from the equation, but I am trying to show other factors can contribute and placing blame only on Mstar may not be accurate?

    This is the type problem Steve Christensen (Broadweave) often points to in saying why iProvo failed. No one party controls the end to end process or problem solving?

  17. Capt. Video says:

    Keep in mind Jeff, I have no inside knowledge of UTOPIA/Mstar accounts due or accounts payable.

    I do not know any of this as fact. Just stuff I’ve heard and believe to be true.

  18. Jeff says:

    I agree with you 100% on the Set Top Box issue.

  19. SirTomster says:

    Well compared to my Dish DVR the UTOPIA solution is a pile of kaka.

    Although, I wish the Amino 110 was used more than it is (was, my info is a year out of date)

    The 110 is fine what what it does. Its the 120 and that stupid buffering issue that is the biggest problem.

    And the 500? At least it is a 110 w/ a hard drive and not a 120. But my gawd, the 500 vs my DVR the 500 blows chunks. Was it based on a 1st gen Tivo or something? Because it does suck. Great to spend all that money on the network and then deploy a crappy STB.

    When I was in the NOC MSTAR kept installing 120’s (HD) on TV’s w/o HD. I would of installed the 110’s there and kept the 120’s for those that HAD to have HD. Because the biggest issue was the 120.

    110 wasn’t that bad in comparison to the alternative and at least they would not of had the freezing issue like the 120’s.

  20. Capt. Video says:

    In UTOPIA the 110 was not really an option. They bought all 120’s (almost all) and their original plan was to use all 120’s, even for customers without HD.

    I did see that Mstar got somewhat swept up in that mentality and was installing 120’s even in Provo where they should have used 110’s.

    But for the most part, in UTOPIA they were told to install 120’s everywhere.

    …and yes the features of the 500 were poor. But that is the problem with being on a small format (i.e. everything is developed for cable and satellite and not IP as the format is on only a small number of customers.

    This was more true when iProvo and UTOPIA were pioneers…but still true today to some degree.

    Provo switched to the ADB set top box, but UTOPIA has done little to change. They got a few ADB boxes to test, and most were installed on employee accounts.

    Now UTOPIA is installing a headend, but I don’t believe they have discussed it with their only current video provider.

    Could that be possible, you have only 1 company with video licenses…and you make headend and programming desisions without discussing it with them?

    But the solution must include video licensing as XMission is saying they are soon to offer video and I’m guessing it’s via the UTOPIA solution.

    I fear they may have made a deal with DirecTV (MFH3 solution). That would be a very, very bad decision and place them in what I would consider a gray area legally.

    I guess we will just have to wait and see.

  21. Anonymous says:

    The fact is that UTOPIA has given the ok on the ADB STB’s but they will not purchase the boxes themselves. If Mstar wants to improve their crappy video service (due to the terrible Amino STB’s) they have to purchase the ADB’s on their own.

    It seems as though UTOPIA wants nothing to do with video service anymore. I think a lot of the problem is the pallets and pallets of Aminos that they have that they can do nothing with.

    Video service will not get any better until UTOPIA takes responsibility and cleans up the mess they’ve made with the Aminos. I agree, without a triple play UTOPIA will not go far.

  22. Jesse says:

    I hear that the problems with the Amino boxes are largely isolated to the 120. The 110 and 500 are supposed to work fine. I understand the problem with the 120 to be faulty MPEG-2 decoder hardware that causes the device to freeze when it gets out-of-spec data instead of producing visual glitches like pretty much every other MPEG-2 decoder on the market. Unfortunately, fixing the 120 would require that Amino step up and take responsibility for the problem. The alternative, replacing the STBs, is a very expensive solution.

  23. luminous says:

    interesting, faulty mpeg2 decoders, well filtering out of spec data and reinserting valid data(even if it would create blank or unupdated chunks) at the head-end should be possible, if the problem is the original mpeg2 feed, given i don’t know what hardware their running on and how programmable it is given sufficent access a good programmer and a few weeks with the mpeg2 spec i bet it could be figured out.

  24. Ben Saunders says:

    Yea the 500s and the 110s function better than the 120. But, and this is a huge but, only the 120’s can do HD. The 110s and 500s are obsolete. The fact that they can’t do HD may be the reason they work mostly.

    In any case Amino was a terrible choice for a set top box. It is so sad that Utopia got sucked into the Amino BS which started in Provo.What do you do with a warehouse full of junk set top boxes?

    There are certain individuals that lead the whole Utah fiber to the home effort down the path to destruction based upon the silly hype around the Aminos and how cute they were.

  25. Jesse says:

    luminous: UTOPIA considered that, but there’s a few problems: there’s no way to re-request the data, the delay for doing so would be several seconds and the buffer required to pull it off would be huge. It’s unfeasible to do anything but try and work through the hiccups.

    Ben: The HD factor is a big deal, though I would think that some of the cost of a new STB could be rolled into the monthly fee to allow providers to pay it off. Comcast, Dish and DirecTV all charge extra for HD packages, so I don’t think consumers would freak out about it.

  26. Capt. Video says:

    I’ll add my 2 cents here:

    1: When the Amino’s were selected there were very few options available. These boxes were recommended by Minerva, the middleware manufacturer. You could onlt select boxes that were interoped with the middleware.

    2: There was no problem with the Amino 110 and few with the 500. The comment that they don’t do HD is true, but 90+% of the TV’s on the network are not HD and do not need an HD box.

    3: UTOPIA’s BIG mistake in my opinion, was electing to buy all HD boxes when most TV’s did not and would not be HDTV’s, and they made a mistake in buying so many of them (10,000?). Provo wisely elected to put HD boxes (which cost more) only on HDTV’s where they were needed. They were able to replace the faulty Amino 120’s by replacing hundreds of boxes, not all of them as UTOPIA would have to do.

    I also believe legal action should have been taken against Amino as the boxes did not work as they said they would. In my opinion the product was not fit for the purpose it was sold for.

    I believe the boxes freeze only when the IP stream is a variable bit rate stream, constant bit rate video does not freeze. This problem could be fixed at the headend, but at a very high cost…and then the other problems of the Amino 120 would still be there. It was just a bad box.

    When the problem first appeared, both iProvo and UTOPIA expected a patch from Minerva or Amino to be issued to fix the problem (as software patches fixed other problems)…they tried and tried, but were never able to fix it.

    As far as needing all HD or saying non HD boxes are obsolete is just foolish! Long into the foreseeable future homes will have non HD TV sets (as well as some HD sets.) Long after the usable life of the set top box homes will still have standard definition TV’s. Very, very few homes have ONLY HD TV’s.

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