UTOPIA Moving Forward in Brigham City

UTOPIA has obtained the approval of Brigham City to move forward with the plan to create a voluntary SAA to provide services to over 1,600 residences. Reports from the meeting were that the crowd was almost unanimously in favor of approval and the city council voted 4-1* in their favor. This means that residents who have opted in will be able to receive service in exchange for either a $3,000 connection fee up-front or paid over a period of 20 years via a city-backed bond. Anyone who has not signed up for service will not be expected to pay any part of this bond.

The good news is that with the number of homes participating, the entire city will be covered with service. Residents have until early December to opt to participate in the bond. Anyone who wishes to get hooked up after that will have to come up with the money up-front or join up with enough other residents to form a new bond. Best of all, the city will retain ownership of all portions of the network built under the SAA with the potential to get other portions of the network placed under city ownership in the future.

UTOPIA also picked up a new service provider, Brigham.net. They’re the typical dial-up-come-DSL ISP that’s hit hard times as Qwest plays hardball. (While Qwest will deny it, they’ve been using the list of wholesale line orders from other service providers to poach DSL customers.) While it is unclear if/when Brigham.net plans to expand beyond its home town, it certainly is a good thing for residents of Brigham City to have even more competitive choice. This could also bring an additional 145 customers to UTOPIA beyond the 1600 that have already opted in.

As part of the launch, the long-delayed white label video product will be ready to go. (It’s about time since it was starting to feel like the Duke Nukem Forever of fiber networks.) Apparently the hold-up was Turner. UTOPIA wanted to transport the video signal over a secure fiber network to their headend and Turner was the only programmer who would have none of it. After much negotiation, UTOPIA had to get a dish to bring in Turner networks like TNT, TCM, CNN, and Cartoon Network. The packages are only going to come in a few basic flavors and I wasn’t able to get details on what VOD options, if any, will be included with it. The channel lineups are currently posted on their website if you want to take a look; it appears to be pretty complete to me.

So how is Qwest reacting? Just as you would expect them to. They have filed a GRAMA request with Brigham City to obtain the documents forming the SAA and may take legal action to stop it from forming. The problem here, though, is that UTOPIA is just a contractor in the middle of it all. Qwest will have to sue Brigham City to stop the SAA to, in effect, tell them that they can’t let their residents buy a fiber optic network of their own. (Yes, it’s as dumb as it sounds.) I sincerely hope Qwest will back off on this one.

(*Unsurprisingly, Ruth Jensen was the lone no vote and continued to parrot telecom talking points. She was also reportedly excessively harsh and unprofessional with the UTOPIA representatives at the meeting to the point of being called out by some residents. I’m also a bit concerned that she apparently didn’t know the difference between a voluntary SAA and an involuntary SAA. Isn’t that the kind of thing that a city council member should know?)

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13 Responses to UTOPIA Moving Forward in Brigham City

  1. Ronald D. Hunt says:

    So we are going to have 2 separate video providers on the same network. Competition at its finest.

  2. Capt. Video says:

    I’m still a little confused.

    I see reference to 1600 homes signing up for UTOPIA service but it’s not clear to me if these are all part of the SAA, agreeing to pay the $3000 or accept the lien or if that includes current customers?

    If 1600 homes are willing to pay $3000 or have the lien placed on their property….I’m very impressed! There are only some 5500 homes in Brigham City and 1600 would be 29%.

    I guess I still have the same simple questions on the number. Exactly how many homes are currently legally committed to either pay $3000 or have a lien placed on their home.

    I can see Qwest questioning the action as it appears the city is paying for UTOPIA fiber construction to “city facilities” AND the city is covering a “short term” funding gap.

    It does not look like a “clean” case of residents paying for the construction of the network? Is the city paying for construction and then expecting future sign-ups will cover the cost?

  3. Jesse says:

    The 1600 are the number of homes currently committed to the SAA. Additional homes may join the SAA before the cut-off in early December.

    And yes, capturing nearly 30% of any market in one fell swoop is both impressive and unprecedented. Verizon was happy to hit an 18% take rate with FIOS after about a year.

    The city has the right to buy construction to city facilities, especially since they are retaining ownership of the network. Qwest is not in the business of building a fiber network under someone else’s ownership so I don’t even see that it would infringe upon what they do (unless they’re trying to insinuate that cities are legally obligated to buy their services?). It’s typical Qwest. If they don’t get the dollars, they’ll litigate and legislate to make sure nobody else does either. At least Comcast has the honor to not pick these fights.

  4. Capt. Video says:

    Glad to see video is finally going to launch. Even after the launch that took a year too long to reach, I tip my hat to them for getting it launched. (While you point to the trouble with Turner, I suspect UTOPIA could have agreed a year ago to put in a dish to receiver the Turner channels (as they agreed to do now) and had it behind them?)

    The channel list seems to list the iProvo Channel (which I believe was shut down over a year ago??).

    There is no info on the packages/pricing for the UTOPIA video. How are the channels packaged and what is the price of those packages (and equipment)?

    The HD packages look strong!

    Best wishes to XMission and FuseCore as they move into video!

  5. Capt. Video says:

    If 29% of the homes signed up for the SAA I am VERY, VERY IMPRESSED with UTOPIA!


    Beyond Amazing to UNBELIEVABLE!!!

    I really tip my hat to them.

  6. I’m not sure if that number includes current non-SAA subscribers or not, but if it did, it would hardly make a dent. Current Brigham subscribers would number in the dozens, not hundreds. The only live footprint in Brigham passes a little over a hundred homes, if memory serves.

    The main reason Brigham hasn’t rolled yet is because they keep getting more and more people signing up, so it made sense to delay the SAA close.

    Paul, the basic video service includes nearly every non-premium channel one expects to get on higher tier services with other providers (including a slew of Spanish channels), and includes HD and DVR for $65/mo. Premium movie packages are priced ala carte at pretty standard industry costs. It is very aggressive.

    And that channel lineup looks old, though it gives you a good idea what’s in store. We’ve been testing the feed in house for months, and have a number of live testers on UTOPIA. I’m expecting a few kinks at launch, but nothing we won’t work out over a few weeks.

  7. Capt. Video says:

    I would think this is al in all the best UTOPIA news I have heard in a very long time.

    The SAA numbers are fantastic. Well beyond the numbers I thought they would get in my wildest dreams.

    The video package seems very good and very aggressive on the pricing.

    I’m sure you will quickly work thru the minor bumps one would always expect upon the launch of a new service.

    I’m actually thinking there could be a bit of light at the end of that dark tunnel.

  8. Anon says:

    Does anyone know about the IPTV streams? Is it MPEG2 like what iProvo has or will it be something else (h264)? Any chance there will be a firewire port on the set-top boxes enabled for media center connectivity?

  9. Jesse says:

    The new headend is at least MPEG-4 and I know Prime Time also uses MPEG-4. I have no idea if they’re using H.264 or not. As far as the STB, I believe it is up to each provider to select which one they would like to use.

  10. Gene says:

    So what would it take to get them to do this in Riverton?

  11. Jesse says:

    Step one: Get a bunch of your neighbors interested. The new model is going to require a lot of boots on the ground before UTOPIA sends their sales teams in to assist. It requires a lot more grunt work than talking your city council into it, that much is for certain.

  12. Dean says:

    annon to the best of my knowledge they do not have a firewire port but they do have HDMI, RGB, standard coax and A/V. available for use with a media center the internet connection its’ self is more than capable of steaming HD video as the connection starts at 10/10 Mbps and the availability of 100/100 Mbps for res. customers and 1/1 Gbps to business.

    the percentage is actually over the estimated 29% as there are several unpopulated areas that have been assigned a parcel id that will not be included in the build.

    as for the question on why UTOPIA did not want to use a satellite is simply a matter of principle why would they want to reduce the potential Quality of service that they have striven so hard to raise the bar on.

    Current customers using the UTOPIA network are approximately 70 while only about 5 are using the television services as they were just recently implemented for use.

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