Utah Taxpayers Association Holding an Anti-UTOPIA Rally

Not content to pen astroturf editorials and send deceptive last-minute postcards, the Utah “Taxpayers” Association has plans to hold an anti-UTOPIA rally in Orem on July 13. The BBQ/carnival (heh) will be in Orem City Park, 300 E Center St, from 5-7PM. I’d encourage UTOPIA supporters to show up in a counter-protest to correct what will undoubtedly be a series of half-truths, hyperbole, and plain old-fashioned lying. And, unlike my challenge to a throw-down that went unanswered, they can’t exactly run away from you if you call them on it.

As always, be respectful and don’t act like a jerk. You aren’t going to win anyone over with an attitude. I’d like to be there myself, but I’ll be out of town on business.

Want to attend NAB2010 in Las Vegas? Readers can go for free

I’m very excited to announce a special deal for blog readers: admittance to NAB2010 for nothing at all. The National Association of Broadcasters holds an annual convention in Las Vegas to showcase all of the latest and greatest in content production and distribution for television and film. This year, they have an exhibit area on broadband as well as a conference exploring online content distribution. The free Exhibits Only pass (which is normally $150) includes access to the opening keynote and state of the industry address, info sessions, and the Content Theater and Destination Broadband Theater.

The convention runs from April 10-15 in Las Vegas, a relatively short drive from here. As a 14-year former resident of Sin City, let me tell you right now that if you want to go, you had better get a pass and a hotel reservation now. If you don’t, you’ll be staying in Mesquite or Primm and driving an hour each way. NAB is the biggest convention in the city and all of the nice hotels, not-so-nice hotels, and better dumpsters will be booked for the week.

So don’t delay: go register now with the code A913 to get your free pass today.

Utah Taxpayers Association Uses Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt Ahead of Brigham City Vote

The City Council in Brigham City will be holding a final vote on the UTOPIA SAA on Thursday December 10 at 7PM. This vote will determine if the SAA will move forward or not. Ahead of this, the Utah Taxpayers Association has decided to start up a campaign of disinformation to try and get residents against it. The following mailer was sent out to all residents of Brigham City (no doubt at a considerable cost to the UTA).

UTA Postcard Side A

UTA Postcard Side A

UTA Postcard Side B

UTA Postcard Side B

In their usual style, it purposefully misrepresents the SAA and plays loose with the facts. Here’s a few highlights.

  • Before UTOPIA came to town, private companies would not invest in Brigham City. Both Comcast and Qwest refused to provide broadband service to residents despite repeated requests from the city to do so. After Brigham City joined UTOPIA, both companies started to roll out services. Chasing away private capital indeed.
  • Sure, your house could be sold at a foreclosure sale if you fail to pay your part of the opt-in SAA. The same thing happens when you fail to pay your property taxes, your mortgage, or any other expense associated with owning a house or taking a loan out against it. Yet, for some reason, the UTA doesn’t seem to think those items are unfair. Nice spin, guys, but not paying your bills will, surprise, result in consequences. No duh.
  • The UTA has purposefully inflated and misrepresented the city’s share of the expenses associated with the SAA. Brigham City has chosen to pay to hook up all city buildings with UTOPIA service. That accounts for well over half of the money the UTA is talking about and provides a legitimate service to the city. It is also entirely unknown what costs, if any, the city will have to carry for the bond to go through. This is because it depends entirely upon the number of people who sign up. Unless the UTA has some kind of magic crystal ball that I don’t (which I seriously doubt), they’re just making crap up. Again.
  • The UTA is actually calling it a negative point that you’re paying $25 and don’t get service included at that price. I hate to break this to them, but there isn’t a provider on earth that would provide even a single part of a triple play for just $25/mo., at least not without line subsidies (like Qwest and the USF). This is just a nonsensical argument. It’s like complaining that the taxes you pay for roads don’t include a car.
  • The UTA also points out that the money from the sale of your home will be used to pay off the costs of the SAA. Again, duh? What, does someone expect that the bond magically disappears because you sold your house? It’s another nonsense argument.

The flier is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to derail a project with significant community involvement and backing. The UTA isn’t looking out for taxpayers; they’re covering for their members. Let Brigham City’s residents spend their money how they want to, m-kay?

Final Call: UTOPIA Breaking Ground in Brigham

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.

Provo's Decision Tonight

Tonight, Provo’s Municipal Council will likely make a decision on the proposal from Veracity to float part of the bond payment for upwards of 10 years. I’m not going to delude myself or any of you: the meeting and vote is mere formality. The Council will, amidst some grumbling, approve the proposal. Steve Turley will vote against it knowing it will pass so if something goes wrong later, he can wash his hands of any responsibility. (Prudent politics, Steve, but how about owning something for a change?) Given the options that have been presented by the mayor, I don’t know that the municipal council is being given much of a choice.

Yes, there are options. Provo could take the network back with many different avenues for running it differently. That said, there exists no political willpower or stomach for doing so. If Provo doesn’t have its heart into running the network, it will be at least as badly mismanaged as it was before if not worse. They’re still in “run and hide” mode, willing to accept any moderately reasonable deal to keep the thing away from the city.

Several companies have expressed to me an interest in participating in an RFP process for the network. Provided that such an RFP process leaves enough time for companies to submit applications and the city to review them before having to make a “do or die” decision regarding Broadweave, it should be encouraged and acted upon to make sure that the Council is truly evaluating all of the possibilities before them. There’s nothing to lose by asking for more options.

Even with options other than approving the sale, I don’t think the council is going to consider them. Veracity has thrown Provo a decent pitch with a decent chance of success and this Council has already shown a tendency to vote with the mayor. (Despite their recent pushback, I doubt there will be any serious resistance.) Unless another party comes along with a better concrete proposal, it would appear that the best choice is what the council was going to do anyway. How’s that for the world’s most tepid and lame endorsement?

Delayed: Provo Punts For Now

Just a head’s up that Provo’s Municipal Council had to delay the vote and discussion on the proposal from Veracity and Broadweave until another day. Some of the language in the final resolution needed a bit of tweaking and I’m sure it didn’t help that a council member was absent. I’ll be sure to let you know when it gets rescheduled.

UTOPIA Open House in Layton, March 17

According to a flyer that a friend of mine received, Layton Mayor Steve Curtis and UTOPIA will be holding an Open House Tuesday, March 17th 2009 from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM.  Layton Mayor Steve Curtis and UTOPIA CEO Todd Marriott will be making brief comments at 11:00 AM.  This open house will be held at the “Woody” Woodland Park, 1505 North 25 East, in Layton Utah.

Update: Just got ahold of this flyer, and it says “Please join us in welcoming UTOPIA to Layton.  Come see the UTOPIA Mobile Command Center and enjoy a live demonstration of the incredible capabilities of the UTOPIA Network”.

Liveblogging the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee: Feburary 20, 2009

As I normally do when attending government meetings, I’ll be liveblogging the entire affair. Today the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee will be considering SB205, a bill that makes modifications to redevelopment agency funds.

Upon a closer examination, it looks like it will do two things that can affect UTOPIA: network infrastructure can only be paid for via RDA through tax expendetures and not by bonding and the infrastructure must remain open to any service provider’s use. I disagree that it is necessary to take away the ability of the city to bond RDA funds for such projects (especially since they are very capital-intensive) and the “open” provision might be interpreted to mean that services such as transparent LAN can be provided directly by the city as wholesale transport. Obviously these changes can be quite troublesome. I’m going to speak against both changes and voice my concerns when the time presents itself.

Keep on refreshing as the meeting begins to see what’s going on.

3:00PM Movement to pass with favorable recommendation has passed unanimously with the note that the bill will be amended. The meeting is now adjourned. I’ll keep an eye on the amendments.

2:51PM UTOPIA cities are working on some amendments to improve the language in the bill. This may not be as bad as initially thought.

2:41PM Yeah, this is a direct response to Centerville. Sen. Bramble is concerned that RDA funds could be used to pay off UTOPIA’s bond debt. That’s why they’re looking at closing the bonding option for telecommunications.

2:38PM Sen. Bramble is taking the floor to discuss SB205.

2:28PM Sen. Bramble has arrived. I still don’t see any Qwest or Comcast reps that I recognize.

2:27PM SB205 isn’t going first as originally planned since Sen. Bramble isn’t here yet. Instead, we get to hear about uniform fees on canoes. This is the kind of legislative stuff that’s good for a nap.

2:25PM Looks like we’re up to 5 senators. With a quorum established, they can finally get started.

2:22PM Re-ordered so that the latest updates are at the top. Don’t know why I was doing it the other way.

2:20PM Looks like the committee chair got tired of waiting. He just left to go find some of the other senators that should be here right now.

2:18PM Okay, I know Senators are busy. But, seriously, it’s almost 20 minutes past when this was supposed to get started. And I’m here on my own dime.

2:07PM I still don’t see any of the usual suspects from Qwest or Comcast here today. It’s entirely possible they don’t yet have a hand in it. If we stay on the down-low, it may stay that way.

2:01PM As with most committee meetings, this one is going to start late. Looks like there’s still at least 3 members not here yet including Sen. Bramble and Sen. Stephenson.

1:55PM It’s still a pretty empty meeting room. I’ll bet the Senate has been pretty busy with today’s media circus. I’ve also heard that the bill is likely to be modified.