Back from the dead: New UTOPIA provider may revive FTTH in Springvile

Neighborhood Networks LogoWay back in 2004, Springville had a fiber-to-the-home network covering most of the city, but it had only picked up about 100 subscribers. The city made the decision to shutter the network, purchased from the defunct AirSwitch, since it was operating at a loss and was mostly dark. Now a new UTOPIA provider, Neighborhood Networks, has big plans to bring back fiber in the city and provide gigabit services at the now-standard rate of $70/mo.

The state of the current city network isn’t all that good. Most of the electronics are in need of replacing and many segments didn’t have any installed to begin with. There’s also the question of the state of a network that has gone unused for over a decade. For instance, the fibers or conduit could be broken or there may be a lot of unmapped network assets. Repairing what’s there would be an expensive endeavor, and it’s why Neighborhood networks plans to build from scratch, bypassing the current city assets. I reached out to the Mayor of Springville, Wilford Clyde, to ask more about the network and received no response.

Building fiber is certainly no easy task, even with a good business plan. They’re still negotiating right of way with the city (which will take about six months) and aren’t ready to start seeking out areas of demand just yet. (Seriously. If you call, they’ll probably ask you to call back when they’re ready.) Another challenge is that supplies of fiber equipment are stretched pretty thin as gigabit mania sweeps the nation. It also costs a lot of money to dig trenches and lay conduit, something that’s caused Google investors a lot of heartburn when it comes time to look at earnings statements.Neighborhood Networks CTO Johnathan Pemberthy says the company sold most of their WISP operations to help finance building out the city. They’re also hoping to take an approach like UTOPIA did in Brigham City (and Google Fiber later emulated in Kansas City, Austin, and Provo) to sign up neighborhoods before starting construction. With a 25% take rate, they’ll build a neighborhood and offer 100Mbps for $40/mo or 1Gbps for $70/mo with an eye towards eventually providing 10Gbps services down the road. The service will come with no caps, no throttling, and no contracts. Most interestingly, they’re offering a standard same-day SLA for residential customers and 4-hour for business customers, what Pemberthy calls their crucial differentiator.

If you’re living in Springville, keep your ears to the ground for some next-gen broadband in your backyard.

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18 Responses to Back from the dead: New UTOPIA provider may revive FTTH in Springvile

  1. Brent Wolsey says:

    Very cool, but it makes me wonder though why Springville (since they are going to start from scratch anyway). What’s there that makes it the place to invest vs another city. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely excited for them, and happy that someone wants to make the investment, it just makes me wonder. And it’s too bad I no longer live there.

  2. Springville was chosen for various reasons, but mostly as we already had a large customer base to switch to our fiber product. We are already currently in deployment.

    • Brent Wolsey says:

      Very cool. That’s wonderful and I’m sure it will be great for both the provider and the consumers.

      Now, if you would going forward, let me know when you want to bring fiber to the new area of Bluffdale (just south of the prison) and I’ll not only subscribe, but I’ll also do all I can to help you get in. 🙂

  3. W. Lehrer says:

    What happened to this? Is this going anywhere?

    • Bret Spencer says:

      Doesn’t look hopeful. They started removing comments from their Facebook page months ago and last week they let their domain expire. Last I heard from them was an email in May.

  4. W. Lehrer says:

    It’s unfortunate for Springville, but there were bad assumptions in their plan. They relied on 25% signing up for their service, and that’s never going to happen. Also, the residents of Springville won’t easily tolerate yet another citywide telecom construction effort, either, without some significant capital behind the company, which they don’t appear to have. Sorry Springville.

    Go go Google.

  5. Bret Spencer says:

    I emailed them and they still plan on announcing the build-out plan. They further told me, “We have installed multiple HOA and apartment complexes in and around the city of Springville with our fiber already as they are conducting stress tests on our network.” I’m probably just over eager but it would be nice to know these things as they happen.

    • W. Lehrer says:

      “In and around the city” and “stress tests on our network” don’t equate to installing a citywide fiber network to replace the old AirSwitch service. I’m calling BS on this.

  6. We would like to apologize about the lack of updates and working on bringing more frequent updates to those who have requested to be on that list. Our progress has slowed but not stopped.

    We look forward in bringing fiber to Springville City.

  7. W. Lehrer says:

    I’m curious, I’ve read that this organization is taking deposits for future Internet service while pursuing venture capital funding to build the network. Is this true? Can you give us a progress report on this funding effort?

  8. I’m not sure what information you have heard about VC funding. We have been working on engineering the city before starting. Also we only had a initial round of pre-installs with a special offering for those who want to wait. We have since closed that offering and only now taking leads to call when the network is built in their neighborhood. If you call 801-724-6641 and get on the list to be contacted with further updates on the project.

  9. Ryan says:

    I’m all about this….BUT no real news has been posted here for a few years. Is it going to really happy? I’d so no, not with the very old mayors and city council who are old fashioned and voted into office because they have huge family ties here.

    Bottom line is that approximately $19 million dollar library that we are all being taxed on….SUCH A WASTE>.Most go there to use the computers and the internet for research. Not physical books. In fact no matter the device used you’re lucky to max out at a 1mb per second download speed. I know Nebo is providing the ISP (I used to know the actual name). But, anyways latencies in the high 300’s to well know reliable le fast servers, and then it’s pathetic that you can’t go there and do business or even homework because websites including just checking or sending an email with no attachments take 5 minutes to send or load.

    Springville deserves better internet opportunities especially for the state of the art facility they prematurely built. It should not be using DSL internet to support some people who utilize the libraries network. It’s a true shame that city council is OK with spending. millions, but yet they can’t spend a hundred a month for a reliable, fast ISP?

    Makes me sick. City council needs to either get off their old fashion high horse and resign or get with the program. Just because the mayor doesn’t understand tech and he’s likely scared of it doesn’t make it evil. The internet is the future.

    Stop blocking it and fund it!

    Oh did I mention my cell phone is 900 times faster than the internet at the library. That’s absolutely insane. I can’t even work there and I don’t even stream music or stream video. Fire the incompetent ISP techs and get real ones. Often I can’t even connect to the wifi aft er 4pm because the network is over loaded.

    • Jesse says:

      Their website claims that construction is underway, but they would also be pretty far behind their original projections at this point. Your best bet would be to call Neighborhood Networks and see if/when they plan to be in your neighborhood.

  10. W. Lehrer says:

    I happened to be in the room when one of the founders of the original AirSwitch (who still helps run Backfence network at received a phone call from one of the Neighborhood Networks and it was pretty entertaining at the time (he put it on the speaker phone). The guy was trying to convince my colleague that he should turn Backfence over to him so they could use it for Neighborhood Networks. Backfence is already doing gigabit service. He said things like “it would be good if we could show that we are providing service to someone.” He also kept insisting that Backfence wasn’t very good, “it’s only Ethernet” even though it’s already doing gigabit for $25/month to the area. He said it could never be upgraded even though Backfence is already running 10g in some places. Basically it was a really insulting phone call. My colleague and our group talked about it for a little while and considered perhaps starting a crowdfunding effort to expand Backfence to the rest of the city, since it would be a lot cheaper and just as fast. Maybe if enough people were genuinely interested. But it sure sounds like Neighborhood Networks is a lot of talk.

  11. Steve says:

    Johnathan, please respond. You have taken a lot of deposits on the Hobble Creek canyon and now you can’t be reached. Please contact me and tell me that we can get service or our deposit back. Steve Smith.

  12. Bret Spencer says:

    On May 25, 2017, the Utah Division of Consumer Protection issued a citation to Neighborhood Networks for failing to provide services and Penberthy apparently never responded to the state investigator so on June 29, a $110,000 fine was issued. Moreover, the website and Facebook pages have been gone for awhile. So that’s done for.

    I’d love to have access to the Backyard network. I’m only 5 blocks away!

  13. W. Lehrer says:

    It sounds like a fine is going to be the least of Penberthy’s problems if he doesn’t start talking to people.

    You might want to text the backfence guys and get your name in their system because it sounds like they are doing a study to see if they can roll out to the whole city. It must be nice to have gigabit for 25 a month. You can text them at 801-477-0070

  14. Patrick Curl says:

    Doubt this ever gets built, don’t trust Johnathan Penberthy, he owes 100k+ just in wage claims to 10+ devs, project managers, etc. He ghosted all the recruiters, never paid them. Never paid us as w2 employees, and he was arrested for writing bad checks.

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