Press Release: UTOPIA cities gearing up for growth

WEST VALLEY CITY— The eleven pledging cities of the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA; are currently discussing options for the next stage of the network’s growth. After a string of successes since June of 2008, the open-access, fiber-to-the-premise network is strategizing on how to reach more homes and businesses sooner.

“In less than two years – since we retained the new management team – the network has added about 50% as many new subscribers as the network had gained since 2002, grown from three service providers to 12, and we’ve deployed fiber throughout Tremonton and Brigham City, and in portions of Layton and West Valley City,” says the UTOPIA board chair, Kane Loader of Midvale City. “The UTOPIA model is working, but we need to maintain this growth in customers.”

The new plan anticipates adding about 20,000 more customers over the next several years. “We’ve known for a long time that UTOPIA needs a much larger customer base, and a good mix of business and residential customers, to make the books balance,” says Murray Mayor Dan Snarr. “Our cities are already obligated to the network for years to come, so we need to grow to critical mass rapidly, based on a plan to ensure long-term financial health.”

“YouTube alone uses as much bandwidth as the entire World Wide Web did in 2000,” points out Layton Mayor Steve Curtis. “Bandwidth needs in the near future will be enormous, as Google recently acknowledged. We want to make sure our residents and businesses are thriving, and in a world with an increasingly digital economy, a clear factor will be access to the near-unlimited bandwidth of fiber to the premise. UTOPIA is needed by our communities more than ever.”

“A recent New York Times article stated that, without a commitment to open access, affordability for higher bandwidth is only going to get worse. We need to keep growing this fiber network to support local businesses and the private sector,” insists Orem Mayor Jerry Washburn. “Governments build roads, and allow FedEx and UPS to compete on them. Governments build airports, and allow Delta and Southwest to compete at them. It makes sense for us to build a fiber network, and allow any interested service provider to compete on it, which currently includes XMission, Telesphere, Voonami, Connected Lyfe,, and more.”

Under this next phase of growth, the eleven pledging cities would create a new bond and release funds incrementally as demand is demonstrated. Officials from Brigham City, Centerville, Layton, Lindon, Midvale, Murray, Orem, Perry, Payson, Tremonton and West Valley are working together with UTOPIA staff to finalize the funding plan.



UTOPIA – Elizabeth Vincent, 801.613.3837,

    • Kane Loader, UTOPIA Board Chair, 801.567.7206
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7 Responses to Press Release: UTOPIA cities gearing up for growth

  1. Capt. Video says:

    Mayor Curtis is right about bandwidth growth…but what he fails to admit is that there is no current or projected future shortage of bandwidth in the existing cable network.

    When was the last time you heard cable broadband customers complain that they didn’t have enough bandwidth available?

    I moved from the great fiber to the home system in Provo to a cable broadband system and I see no difference. NONE

    I did have a slightly faster connection in Provo, but nothing I do, including transferring Gb video files, watching HD movies from Netflix via my broadband connection, etc, etc, has been a noticeable change.

    The reality is the cable broadband networks have gotten much faster over the past decade that UTOPIA has been conceived and will continue to do so well into the future.

    UTOPIA is a great network, but not noticeably better to the end user than existing broadband networks. That is why MOST people that have UTOPIA available are NOT UTOPIA customers. Their existing provide meets their needs and the cable companies will insure they continue to do so into the future.

    Yes…there are a few (very, very few) people that want and/or need faster bandwidth….but spending more money on this boondoggle just for those few is just crazy.

    UTOPIA is 1/2 a billion dollars in debt now. Each new thing that was going to “fix” the problem has failed to be the answer. This will be no different.

    UTOPIA needs to figure out why only 1-3 out of 10 homes that have access to UTOPIA sign up….and solve THAT problem. Then build more network.

  2. Jesse says:

    You are most assuredly in the minority. Everyone I’ve talked to that has had both services can’t stop talking about how much faster and responsive UTOPIA is compared to Comcast. It’s not just the bandwidth, but the response time that matters. Many UTOPIA connections have ping times in the 4-5ms range. Show me a HFC system that can pull that off. (I would also note that iProvo != UTOPIA. You can’t equate the two when comparing user experiences.)

    The point-to-point structure is also letting them cream HFC. Shared bandwidth at the last mile only works if you a) have a lot of it and b) keep the node size small. FIOS has done both with 2.4Gbps of bandwidth split between just 32 homes. HFC networks, on the other hand, have 4Gbps of bandwidth split between 200 or more homes. That’s a long-term structural problem that, quite honestly, won’t be solved anytime soon.

    UTOPIA has already figured out why the take rates are low. It’s a combination of network availability not being in areas of demand and a lack of money to hook up those requesting service. UTOPIA gets 500 inquiries a month for service and can’t hook many of those up because the network doesn’t serve them. Many of the others can’t be hooked up because there is no capital to do so.

    This next step is a way to address that disconnect. Cities will bond for a big pool of money and it ONLY gets released to UTOPIA when a hotspot of demand is identified and customers have been secured. At that point, those customers are the ones picking up the bond tab. It’s the same kind of “customer pays” model that Brigham City used, just with getting the money now instead of later. I think it’s a great idea since the burden is being shifted to subscribers where it belongs and it cuts the time to go from demand to digging. This isn’t really extending any risk since, again, subscribers are paying.

    If UTOPIA just sits around without any new influx of money and tries to only hook up existing areas, they will definitely fail. Yeah, they’re way behind, have spent a lot of money, and don’t have much prospect of black ink for years. But would you disagree that they’re in the best position they’ve ever been in? Over a dozen service providers, at least two competing video headends, lots of long-haul customers, partnerships with UTA and UEN… that’s all good stuff. Apparently all of the cities believe that UTOPIA is going in a positive direction since they are all on-board with this new plan. If voters think differently, let them move.

  3. luminous says:

    “no current or projected future shortage of bandwidth in the existing cable network.”

    Layton’s cable system is vastly oversold, drop outs, slow downs, and poor latency’s are common. It’s even noticeable when just browsing the web. I know people that switched to Qwests crappy 1.5meg service just so they can play WoW without the long list of problems that Comcast leaves them with.

    “When was the last time you heard cable broadband customers complain that they didn’t have enough bandwidth available?”

    Sure Comcast can advertise 50meg service, you might can actually get it to, Assuming that the other 200-1500 people in the same loop are not hitting it at the same time as well.

    And Yes the DOCSIS 3.0 stuff is here in Layton so no their upgrade didn’t help any.

  4. Capt. Video says:

    I don’t now, nor have I ever disagreed that fiber is much better than cable, faster ping times, more bandwidth, faster speeds.

    But what is important here is NOT what the networks are able to do at their best. Fiber wins hands down there….but what I believe the problem for fiber networks is that the overwhelming majority of cable broadband customers are pleased with their service and their current needs to not exceed the networks abilities.

    Most people don’t care if a ping is 4-5ms or 3-4 times that. For their current use, the broadband is fine.


    …and yes, there might be small pockets where cable fails to deliver good service. But there are the exception and not the rule. If bad broadband service were the rule…the customers that could get UTOPIA would….and we know that only a small percentage of homes that have broadband AND THE ABILITY TO GET UTOPIA (WHICH WAS OFFERED WITH FREE INSTALL WHEN IT WAS BUILD)…WOULD BE UTOPIA CUSTOMERS.

    It’s not a matter of which network is better. It’s that to most users, cable broadband is “good enough”.

  5. Jesse says:

    You’d be surprised how many people still don’t know about UTOPIA or understand what it is. They’re still fighting against a lot of market ignorance and intentional disinformation. I would argue that most people, with the facts before them, would opt for UTOPIA over Qwest or Comcast an overwhelming amount of the time. Brigham City proves that it is possible, even when a large financial commitment is required.

    And if cable is so great, why is Comcast still ranking so far below average in the ACSI? Why is Qwest? And why are both far below the average across all industries? Why do telecommunications incumbents frequently take around 1/4 of the spots in Consumerist’s Worst Company in America contest? (Hey Comcast, this might actually be your year to “win”.) The data says people hate their existing service, but I would bet that many don’t know to look elsewhere.

  6. Capt. Video says:

    Internet service was not considered in the ACSI cable and satellite rankings.

    Do you have numbers that show the ranking on internet service? They do have 15 million broadband customers.

    I know the service provider’s all went door to door and most homes they visited and explained the benefits of fiber too, and offered a FREE install….did not take the offer. It’s not about people not knowing.

    Believe me, IF all UTOPIA had to do was let people know they are available to make a sale….they would NOT be trying to build more home if they could just get a sale by marketing existing homes passed.

    The fact that EVEN WITH cable’s bad customer service….UTOPIA (and iProvo) could NOT get 80% of the people to switch should tell you something.

    What Brigham City shows is that if the cable company does not upgrade your system…you still remain the largest provider. Brigham city was not up to normal cable standards and there was a little more interest.

    Of the homes with UTOPIA available…where UTOPIA already spent thousands of dollars per home to pass the home, and can serve them immediately…a very small percentage leave cable for UTOPIA.

    Perhaps you should let UTOPIA and UTOPIA’s service providers know all they have to do is market the product to get sales. What fool would spend thousands of dollars per home to build plant to get a customer that you could get by marketing for much much less?

    I’m sorry, but people are just not all that unhappy with cable and the existing network meets their needs in almost all cases.

    Where both networks are available…the people have spoken. The free market is telling you something but you don’t like what you hear. So you claim, “If only the people knew about UTOPIA!”…if only it was that easy for UTOPIA.

    Based upon their latest released numbers (State 2009 Audit Report) Utopia has build 2 miles of fiber of every customer they have and only 16% of the homes that can buy service from UTOPIA do so. Why build 2 miles of fiber to get a home if you could just knock on a door of an already serviceable home to sell it???

  7. Jesse says:

    No, the ACSI doesn’t rank Internet service (though it really should be). That said, Qwest and Comcast are failing at their respective core services. I know I consider my Comcast connection from adequate on a good day to frustrating on a bad one. I know a lot of people who feel the same.

    Believe me, IF all UTOPIA had to do was let people know they are available to make a sale….they would NOT be trying to build more home if they could just get a sale by marketing existing homes passed.

    Except they *do* need to build to reach those homes passed. There may be fiber on the curb, but that’s where it ends for most homes. This new bond will enable them to give those homes the option to either pay the cost up-front or pay it over 20 years. That’s flexibility they do not have with the current cash on hand. Marketing will do no good if you can’t install the service. They can’t take your advice to do marketing only because they still won’t be able to deliver. That’s the cold, hard truth of the matter.

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