Peter Pratt at StimulatingBroadband.com tipped me off that Gov. Herbert has made his recommendations to NTIA and that all three of UTOPIA’s proposals are on the list. This could pump over $57M into the network at a time when capital for expansion is rather difficult to come by. The money could be ready to use as early as February. While this isn’t the final word on which projects will be approved, the NTIA is very likely to go along with the recommendations from the states. The feds didn’t give independent reviewers a lot of time to screen applications before sending them to the states.
The money will be set aside for rural and underserved areas of member cities, so expect to see the money flow into Lindon, Centerville, Payson, Brigham City, Perry, and any leftover portions of Tremonton first. Residents in these cities are very likely to see a sharply reduced cost for an SAA (most likely) or the return of the free install (quite unlikely). Overall, this will mean a big expansion of UTOPIA availability which can only help the bottom line. UTOPIA’s new management will likely have a targeted build plan meant to maximize new subscribers; previously, the building had been willy-nilly.
UTOPIA isn’t the only winner in Herbert’s recommendations. UEN and the UTA picked up endorsements as did several projects from the Navajo Nation. Emery Telecom also got the nod for its three proposals to bring FTTP to its service areas in rural Utah, no doubt to unify its separate CATV and phone systems as part of the upgrade. (Seriously, guys, kudos on being one of the few rural ILECs doing something so ambitious.) There’s also an application to build a community WiFi cloud in Washington County.
Residents of Brigham City, the wait is apparently over. UTOPIA is holding a groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday October 10th from 11AM to 2PM to close up registration for service and finalize construction timelines. The ceremony will be held in Pioneer Park at Forest St. and 600 W. If you’re interested in getting service via UTOPIA, this could be your final chance before the SAA closes and you have to pay the install cost upfront.
Several months ago, FuzeCore said it was looking into using UTOPIA lines in Tremonton to serve the neighboring town of Garfield Garland. Looks like as of 6 weeks ago, they started doing it over a 6-mile radius that includes the neighboring towns of Elwood, Collingston, Fielding, Bothwell, and Deweyville. (Seriously, I don’t know how I missed the press release and Google Alerts only just now picked it up.)
Per the conversation we had at that time, FuzeCore was planning on connection speeds upwards of 10Mbps up and down with VoIP service. The website shows that they’re advertising 8Mbps+, so this is in about the right range. The best competitor Frontier can do is 3Mbps DSL with no mention of their upstream speeds or if their onerous caps will be making a comeback.
Wireless backhaul is one of the markets that I’ve been hoping UTOPIA would chase since it can greatly extend the reach and revenues of the network. Hats off to FuzeCore for using their wireless expertise from Idaho to make it happen!
I was poking around UTOPIA’s website today and noticed that Integra Telecom is now listed as a commerical provider. This is an exciting development for UTOPIA as Integra measures its revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars and spans 11 states. Picking up a carrier-class provider of business services underscores the strength of UTOPIA’s network and could result in the migration of high-dollar accounts from large corporations. Good job on the pickup, guys!
Despite the hefty $147/mo price tag, someone in Layton has some serious bragging rights by becoming the first residential customer on UTOPIA to pick up 100Mbps service courtesey of FuzeCore. Nobody else in Utah offers those kinds of speeds in the home and UTOPIA plans to up the ante even further with planned 1Gbps service to residences (though I shudder to think how much it will cost). Can competitors Qwest and Comcast catch up? Survey says “not bloody likely”.
UTOPIA has been holding a series of open houses in Brigham City and revealed a new tool in their toolbox for extended their reach: the Special Assessment Area (SAA). The short of it is if you can get around 35% of your neighbors to opt into an SAA, a bond will be created for the cost of deploying UTOPIA to that area and each participant will get an equal portion of the cost of deployment attached to their property tax assessment. This allows you to pay for the cost of installation over a long period of time (20 years or longer) while taking advantage of municipal bond rates, typically around 6-7%.
While this was originally conceived as a way to quickly extend UTOPIA further into member cities without waiting for revenues to do so, it can also be used by non-member cities and unincorporated areas to bring in UTOPIA. I don’t know about you, but I plan to start asking my neighbors if they want in on that.
Good news out of UTOPIA: the video product will be ready to launch as early as next week. Service providers will reportedly have a list of prices and channel lineups by Saturday in preparation for reselling to customers. I don’t have a list of the channel line-up, but I would bet it’s going to be competitive with both cable and satellite providers. Now that MSTAR/Prime Time won’t be the only video game in town, you’ll be free to grab triple-play any way you want it.
Speaking of Prime Time, the word on the street is that they’ve been rushing to upgrade all of the MSTAR STBs ahead of being cut off from Broadweave’s headend on May 1. With just two days left, sources tell me that some customers may experience a loss of service since there’s been so little time to do the swap. My understanding is that Prime Time is going to use their headend out of St. George rather than use UTOPIA’s new MPEG-4 headend. Have some patience with them.
SB205 has passed the Senate today with amendments that clarify that RDA runds can’t be used to pay the debt service of a bond created by an interlocal agreement. The intent is that cities will not be able to funnel RDA money to pay off any existing bonds from UTOPIA. The amended bill text is available on the Legislature website (see lines 651-653b). As long as the bill doesn’t see any further modification in the House, I think Centerville and other cities who want to build fiber optic infrastructure with RDA money will be safe.
Chalk up another one for UTOPIA. Today they announced having scored Prime Time Communications as a new service provider and one that brings their own video product. Mstar now has some real triple-play competition including in the HD market. Prime Time is in a few private communities including Sun River in St. George and Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, NV.
A press release issued today makes it official: UTOPIA is ready to sign up customers in Brigham City. The open house is still on for 1PM today (though the press release already quotes those events with special time travel technology) to answer questions and make sure service is available to your home or business.