In a unanimous vote, Midvale becomes the first UTOPIA city to choose to move forward with the proposal from Macquarie. Milestone Two will hammer out the fine details of the proposal to build, maintain, and operate the network for 30 years. The city will still need to vote to accept that finalized and detailed offer when it is completed.
Other cities are still taking feedback on the high-level overview presented in Milestone One. Murray will have an open house June 5 at 6:30PM. Centerville and Lindon both submitted detailed lists of questions and got public responses to all of them. This is shaping up to be an incredibly open process, a stark contrast to a UTOPIA that was scared to discuss anything in public for fear of being attacked again.
Keep your eyes open for postings about more upcoming votes and remember, the votes are just to move forward on getting fine details.
Macquarie has let their proposal out and it looks like they’re planning to make good on many of the rumored details. There’s also a number of very attractive points that will make this an easy sell for new cities to join. Some highlights:
- The network build will be done in existing pledging UTOPIA cities in 30 months.
- The fee will be $18-20 per month per
subscriber address with a 50% discount for MDUs and a 100% premium for businesses. This amount will be indexed.
- Utility fees will have a grace period of 6 months from construction to allow ISPs to hook people up.
- The free tier of service will be 3Mbps symmetrical with a 20GB monthly cap. All service providers must agree to offer it as a condition of being on the network.
- Cities stand to earn between $1.0B and $1.5B depending on the take rate. That’s 2-3 times the existing debt service. On the low end, it would drop the Macquarie fees by almost half. On the high end, it could almost entirely cover the Macquarie fee.
- Speaking of revenues, the cities stand to rake in another $100M annually when the network reverts to their control in 30 years.
- Macquarie will be aggressively promoting the network and intends to extend it to any city that wants to accept its terms. Cities without existing debt service may end up making a good bit of money on the deal.
The worst case scenario is that it is a wash with what they have now except the network gets completed and everyone gets free service. In the best case scenario (which I still this is a little too conservative), they end up paying almost nothing for the network. I’ll just come out at say it: any city council that doesn’t move forward on this deal is committing an act of deliberate and malicious fiscal malfeasance against their city and its citizens.
Macquarie has already presented this information in Utah County and will be presenting again Wednesday April 30 at 7PM at Layton City Hall and Thursday May 1 at 8PM at West Valley City Hall. Show up and make sure the cities know you want this deal to happen.
Without any official action, HB60 died in the same fashion as SB190 and was sent back to rules to rot out the rest of the session without so much as a committee hearing. Between these two bills, municipal broadband advocates in Utah have racked up some big wins when we’re used to nonsense punitive laws sailing through without any opposition. What changed this year was being on top of these bills and swiftly letting legislators know how we feel about them. It might not be a bad idea to write Rep. Curt Webb to express appreciation that he backed down on HB60 once we spoke up. I have a gut feeling that he was had.
And no, I’m not going to take credit for anything. Each of you who took the time to write legislators and share this information as widely as possible across social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Reddit, etc.) had at least as much of a hand in this success. I think we’ve proved that we’re a force to be reckoned with. We just have to show up.
While I think we’ve reached a point where the war is now going in our favor, it’s not over. I’m sure Comcast and CenturyLink will be more than happy to use their hatchetmen at the Utah Taxpayers Association yet again to try and throw up roadblocks next year. Sen. Valentine is not the type to go quietly into the night, and SB190 (or something like it) is probably going to be discussed in interim committees. I have little doubt that other restrictive measures will come up too. Once I find out about them, you’ll know too.
SB190 is no more. Sen. John Valentine made a motion to send SB190 to the rules committee to be studied in the interim which passed the Senate. This effectively ends consideration of SB190 this year, though it’s possible it may come up again next year. Short version: we win.
So what do we do now? Once the session is over, make sure you go to those interim meetings and write the committee members. I have no doubt that so many of you contacting legislators made a huge difference both in getting the bill amended and ultimately getting it shelved. Between this and HB60 appearing to rot on the vine, broadband advocates in Utah have scored major victories this year.
When I hear more about the movements on the committee and its proposals, I’ll be sure to pass them along.
I went to check the status of HB60 this morning and noticed the status has changed to “House Comm – Not Considered”. This means that the committee responsible for hearing the bill has declined to do so. Without a committee hearing, the bill has little chance of passing at all. There’s still the possibility that once the rules are suspended that it could be brought to a floor vote, but that appears to be unlikely and would be a “hail Mary” kind of move.
As always, I’m going to keep watching this one until the session is over, but it looks like we may have won this round handily.
On Thursday night, the city council in Brigham City voted to move forward on a predevelopment agreement with Macquarie. This is a positive step towards bringing $300M in investment to UTOPIA, completing the buildout in all member cities, and contributing money towards the UTOPIA bond payments and Lending Tree. Unfortunately, the meeting wasn’t without theatrics and hysterics with plenty of incoherent rants and untruths during the public comment period. We even got a special Hitler reference from one of them.
You can watch the work session and city council meeting online (skip to 33:00 to begin public comment). The work session includes a very informative history of how private industry failed to build the infrastructure the city needed to keep businesses. Some quick facts from the work session and council meeting:
- In Brigham City, a total of 1600 people signed up for the SAA and about 1300 are current subscribers to the service, about 26% of the city.
- Brigham City is currently not contributing any payments towards UTOPIA’s operational shortfall of about $2.1M per year.
- UTOPIA’s revenues raised much faster when they started primarily targeting business customers.
- January’s income is much higher than expected.
- Anything beyond the current plan to slowly grow the network to profitability would be a much more expensive option. But we already knew that, didn’t we?
- Reissuing the bonds would be very expensive because of the way the current bonds are issued.
- The network will remain the property of the member cities. Macquarie is primarily interested in a return on their investment, not ownership. To break even, they’d need to bring in $10M per year over the life of the contract.
- Per Ken Sutton, owner of UTOPIA ISP Brigham,net, if the network doesn’t make a profit, Macquarie doesn’t get paid. Period.
- The woman who canceled the RUS loan to UTOPIA is now an executive at Frontier, the incumbent operator in Tremonton. Isn’t that special?
- Per their IT director, Box Elder School District depends on UTOPIA for 55% of students to get Internet access. They have no other fiber options available to them.
As expected, Ruth Jensen was combative for much of the work session, fitting her previous history of more-or-less unhinged opposition to UTOPIA. She even went so far as to propose suing UTOPIA, calling it “enslav[ing] the people”. The city attorney promptly smacked her down, saying that it would be the city effectively suing itself. (Skip to ~38:00 in the work session video to see it for yourself.)
So far, West Valley City, Layton, and Tremonton have also signed on. Centerville and Murray are considering it this week. Payson, as usual, is hoping that the whole thing will just go away and is ignoring anything UTOPIA-related. Word around the campfire is that all of the other cities want to move forward on a full study.
Remember the rumblings about UTOPIA’s upcoming announcement last week? Well, it’s here, and its’ huge. Starting today, seven providers will be offering gigabit service for as low as $64.95/mo. If you’ve already paid off the connection fee, this makes it the same or less than Google Fiber in Provo on six of them. Here’s the full price list:
Of note is that UTOPIA has added another provider, WebWave. They’ve been using UTOPIA for backhaul to wireless towers in Davis County since May and are now going to be a full-fledged ISP on the network. With nine total providers to choose from, UTOPIA’s offering more competition for your business than ever.
If you’re content on the lower-priced tiers, SumoFiber and XMission have already switched all customers to 100Mbps. Are you planning to pony up a little more for 10x the speed? I know I would.
If you’re using XMission on UTOPIA, you probably noticed a nice little bonus last night: all 50Mbps customers got a bump up to the full 100Mbps for no extra charge. There’s a few people left to be switched, but it should be done within a couple of days, tops.
One thing to note is that if you aren’t seeing those speeds, you may need to upgrade your router. Most routers, even newer ones, don’t include a 1Gbps WAN port which often serves as a bottleneck. Older 802.11 a/b/g routers also create choke points on the wireless side. All said, that’s a pretty nice problem to have, isn’t it?
Today UTOPIA announced that they will be offering 1Gbps connections to every home they pass. Word on the street is that getting a connection that’s faster than your hard drive (!) should run in the neighborhood of $330-ish per month if you’re leasing the connection. Right now, only a handful of providers in the country offer such blistering speeds to residential customers.
Some other fun facts from the media day:
- UTOPIA’s highest bandwidth customer consumes 20Gbps worth.
- Centerville is completely built out. If you live in Centerville, you can get service right now. About 500 residents have already chosen to do so, just over 10% of total households.
- Homes with multiple set-top boxes will have the greatest need for 1Gbps connections. Currently, 4-5 of them can saturate a 100Mbps connection.
- You could, in theory, get 10Gbps at your home, but UTOPIA isn’t all that comfortable leaving $10K worth of electronics sitting in your house.
You can check out pictures of the event on Google+ or Facebook.
Here’s UTOPIA’s full press release: Continue reading
In a huge move, UTOPIA has just announced that national satellite provider DISH Network is now a provider on the network. Scoring an A-list provider in the telecom space is a major coup and could very well prompt other established operators to sign up as providers. Packages through DISH will include Blockbuster streaming and their own brand of TV Everywhere, Sling, that will allow you to watch programs on your smartphone or tablet.
See below for the full press release. Continue reading