What you need to know about the Utah Broadband Plan

Utah Broadband ProjectThe Utah Broadband Project recently released the Utah Broadband Plan, the culmination of almost five years of work paid for by a federal grant. This builds upon the Utah Broadband Map and a report on broadband adoption within the state. The report has four  main objectives:

  1. Strengthen and Grow Existing Utah Businesses, Urban and Rural
  2. Increase Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Investment
  3. Increase National and International Business
  4. Prioritize Education to Develop the Workforce of the Future

The first unfortunate thing that pops up is that the group that put together the report recommends against treating broadband like the utility it is, yet it also rightly calls it “infrastructure”. Despite broadband being more-or-less unregulated as it is and leading to no competitive choice for 25Mbps+ for 55% of Americans, they state flatly that regulation “would be costly and could result in undesired impacts including constraining industry growth”. This strikes an immediate poor response for the many Utahns who, even in urbanized areas of Salt Lake City, cannot purchase wired service that meets the legal definition of broadband.

Since most of the report is highly focused on commercial services and economic development, it’s not surprising to see residential services get the short shrift. In fact, only a single page makes mention of residential services and sets an embarrassingly low goal of 10Mbps downstream with no upstream goal at all. Despite a positive goal of coordinating efforts between federal, state, and local agencies and network builders, there is no mention of setting a price goal for services, increasing competitive options in the many captive markets in the state, or pushing for using fiber over unreliable copper or wireless technologies. Worse yet, there are no timetables for achieving any of the stated goals in the report.

In all, this effort reeks of high-minded fluffery while doing very little to address the very serious underlying problems of an anti-competitive marketplace offering overpriced services on inferior networks. Completely disavowing the utility-like nature of all wired services seems to be core to the problem, a woefully uninformed position that falsely treats wired and wireless services as co-equals to gloss over deficiencies in competition. This is a standard move in the broadband space, to set a very low goal and pat yourself on the back for reaching it without really trying. We can and ought to do better.

Other highlights from the report:

  • A commercial broadband map to augment the residential service map. This would be helpful to see where commercial providers have exclusive status that blocks competition. It would also reveal areas rich in fiber that can be used to extend service to residential areas.
  • A request to continuing funding the project through GOED. Now that the federal money is gone, the project is asking the state to continue funding its efforts. Despite many weaknesses in their recommendation, we need at least some level of semi-impartial data to draw from to help policymakers.
  • No mentions of municipal efforts. Despite having the largest gigabit fiber network in the nation, the report makes great pains to not even mention municipal networks, not even the profitable SFCN. These are the same players who have managed to successfully apply for and receive federal grants that the report cites as a key part of building out more services in the state.
  • Little use of the previous reports published by the Utah Broadband Project. Despite doing a very in-depth report showing that non-adopters either can’t get access or don’t understand why they would need it, no effort has been put into figuring out how to actually provide education and services to those groups. This almost completely wastes a report published just weeks ago.

I didn’t have much confidence that the Utah Broadband Project would produce useful results before. With this report, my suspicions about its near-uselessness is confirmed. If you want better broadband in Utah, don’t count on the state to do much to lead.

When you want to advertise and print banners, you may want to consider gator board printing. Foam Core Print will have professional printing done for you. find it here.

UPDATE: I should have let Princess Unikitty summarize the plan for me.

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5 Responses to What you need to know about the Utah Broadband Plan

  1. Greg says:

    I noticed one of the little “blurbs” on the pdf file you have linked mentions that over 108 cities have increased their maximum speed to 1 gigabit, yet I don’t see any mention of UTOPIA, which is providing at least a few of those cities with those speeds. Most of the other areas are business-only gigabit connections, as residents can’t even get them.

    Why is the state even considering anything but fiber? If you’re going to do the work of running new broadband lines, you might as well pay the extra pennies it will cost to make those lines fiber.

    • Jesse says:

      You’ve hit on the insanity of the report. Stating that you can get a gigabit connection from at least one address in 108 cities tells us nothing about true availability, pricing, or competition. It’s a true statistic that grossly misrepresents the real state of broadband in Utah. They should be ashamed of doing it.

  2. Ronald D. Hunt says:

    You don’t even want to know what that gigabit metro ethernet costs. This report fails to mention that even know an area may have access to gigabit service, it might not actually be available, centurylink will mark a city as having availability even if they can’t sale the service, because in most cases they only installed enough capacity in the middle mile to run their adsl2+/vdsl FTTN(copper from the node) service.

    And also note that they have marked all adsl2+/vdsl deployments as using fiber, this is not always the case, a number of these locations are using paired T3 lines or other copper based slower tech that was in the ground prior to the deployment.

  3. Rich says:

    What waz that fluff…bunch of pretty full-page pictures in that linked .pdf file but when I did a search for utopia, it came up 0 results out of all 40 pages!? LulZ!

  4. Paul Larsen says:

    Saying anything positive about a municipal broadband project in Utah is a non-starter these days if you are a State agency, and seems to be on the list of items that will probably get you a negative performance evaluation or get your budget cut by the legislature. Better to just not mention these projects. You will find speeds in the broadband mapping portion of the project, and in Brigham City and other UTOPIA cities, these speeds are accurately mapped although there is no attribution of the service provider. If I’m not mistaken, the mapping illustrates “advertised” speeds, so the infamous “up to” marketing fluff gets counted on the map. If you ramp the data filters up to 1 Gig on both the upload and download side, the map essentially becomes a map of UTOPIA. I think it is well known that the incumbent copper and cable providers own the bureaucracy and legislature in Utah, and so I would not expect a report that glows about municipal efforts. As the project moves forward to implementation, it will be interesting to see if the municipal projects are invited to participate, or if the approach is simply to pretend they don’t exist.

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