Qwest's Sneaky Stimulus Play

From reviewing the list of stimulus applicants, you’d think Qwest decided not to partake in the feeding frenzy. Think again. Instead of applying directly, Qwest chose to allow an intermediary to make the application, an intermediary that would then spend the money on Qwest infrastructure and services. I’m referring to the applications from the University of Utah.

You may think hey, what does the U plan to do with Qwest? The reality is that the application from the university was on behalf of UEN. UEN contracts with several companies to build and operate 10GbE and 1GbE links to educational facilities, but the lion’s share of the money goes to Qwest. Should the application get approval, it is nothing more than a hand-out to Qwest to build a network with taxpayer dollars and charge their normal exorbitant rates for service with no real strings attached.

I hope that whoever is reviewing NTIA applications at the state level sees right through this ruse.

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10 Responses to Qwest's Sneaky Stimulus Play

  1. luminous says:

    Interesting, can’t say I am surprised however.

  2. Pablo says:

    I don’t see this as bad at all. Using stimulus money (or any money for that mater) to upgrade Utah Education Network’s infrastructure is a good thing. UEN runs distance education for the U of U (i.e. video conferencing, online testing, online assignments, and etc).

  3. Jesse says:

    The problem isn’t using stimulus money to build out UEN, it’s that the money will be funneled almost entirely to Qwest. Given the significant amount of taxpayer assistance they have and continue to receive and how poor their residential service is, I’ve got a problem with this. It would make a lot more sense for UEN to either own and operate the network themselves or work with other public entities (*ahem*, UTOPIA) to build the network at significant savings. I know what Qwest is charging for metro Ethernet, both installation and service fees, and it’s very overpriced compared to the alternatives. (This doesn’t even get into the number of schools that do not want or use UEN but get it installed anyway.)

  4. Richard says:

    Why would the money necessarily go to qwest, are they they only vendor who could respond and deliver the solution? Is qwest the exclusive technology provider to UEN? If not, and others including UTOPIA could deliver what is being requested, then conversation should be about encouraging competitive bidding.

  5. Jesse says:

    UTOPIA can easily deliver the same services at a better price, but UEN won’t let them have a seat at the table.

  6. Jonathan says:

    I am a little confused by this statement could you expand further: “This doesn’t even get into the number of schools that do not want or use UEN but get it installed anyway.”

    You may misunderstand UEN’s responsiblities defined by the legislature specifically section 2 item b, if you think the GigE circuits are purely for UEN’s video conference services. UEN is effecively the ISP for all of Utah’s higher education and public education institutions. So to say a school doesn’t use UEN’s services or want UEN’s services is a little confusing to me.

    There is more I could say but I don’t want to go the wrong direction if you were misunderstanding UEN’s charter.

    On the Qwest/Utopia note I know of at least one school district that uses Utopia for a few schools to connect to the district aggregation point.

    It should also be noted that while a large share of circuits are provided by Qwest. There are many other players in the network as a whole. When you move outside Qwest’s area you start to see all the rural telco’s get involved. Names like Frontier, CentraCom, Beehive Telecom, and Spanish Fork Fiber show up. When talking about the 10GigE backbone links XO was awarded one of them as can be seen here on page 8.

    Also don’t think that edu’s pay the business rate for QMOE or the GeoMax products from Qwest.

  7. Anon says:

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge of UEN — very interesting stuff.

    I, for one, hope that UTOPIA gets a chance to bid on any future expansion that UEN does. UEN over UTOPIA seems like a huge win-win for citizens.

  8. Harold Bills says:

    UEN has always been riding the crazy train. They are the ones who have engineered the GigE need for each school. Thats some serious bandwidth for teachers to check their Facebook. Of course it is their stimulus submittal and not Qwest’s. Qwest is just a contractor in the game. I think they got there by being the only vendor offering GigE to UEN in the beginning. I do believe this less of a Qwest conspiracy and more of a another UEN push to prove they are the “kings o’ bandwidth”.

  9. Jesse says:

    There’s plenty of good reason we should be concerned with this entanglement. First, Qwest has a direct financial incentive to see that certain stimulus requests are favored over others. Second, they have significant say in whether an area qualifies as unserved or underserved. Third, the Republican majority in state government is by and large anti-muni and pro-incumbent. Combine these things together and you can bet that Qwest is lobbying hard to approve the UEN request so that they get their slice of the pie while railing on proposals from UTOPIA and Ogden. I have a problem with that.

  10. Jonathan says:

    Jesse, these proposals by UEN will get done one way or another. It just means fed dollars or local school district dollars at a slower pace. I agree with Harold on the its UEN’s proposal and Qwest is just one of the contractors on the list.

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