UTOPIA Prices on the Rise?

While many cablecos and telcos are holding the line on broadband pricing, UTOPIA may be stepping it up a notch. FuzeCore lists pricing for Internet connections that is more money for less bandwidth than we’re used to getting. XMission lists similar pricing for UTOPIA services in Tremonton, though the prices for other UTOPIA cities is largely unchanged. Neither Nuvont nor Veracity disclose their pricing up-front (at least as far as I can tell).

Commenters who contacted service providers for pricing in Tremonton have gotten quotes of install costs in the $30-60 range. It’s entirely possible that UTOPIA is trying out some new pricing models that build the cost of the install into the monthly fee similar to what cable and phone companies already do. The real question is if pricing will drop once the install is paid for or if customers could choose to pay off the install cost in exchange for a lower monthly fee. I’m also wondering if the pricing in Tremonton will be rolled out to other UTOPIA markets should it prove successful.

Rumor: Broadweave Tight on Cash, May Outsource Call Center Functions

I’ve had several anonymous tips regarding Broadweave lately that aren’t any kind of good news for the company. These sources say that Broadweave, despite their happy face for the press, is running very tight on cash and is planning to outsource their call center as a way to cut costs. This could mean some very serious service difficulties in the near future and runs contrary to their promises to keep the company operations on iProvo within the city limits. If true, it sounds like Broadweave is coming unravelled much faster than even the harshest critics could have anticipated.

Mstar Says It's Still on UTOPIA

I asked Mstar directly if they are still on UTOPIA and got the following response from Henry Rodriguez, Customer Service Manager:

The change to the UTOPIA website must be an administrative oversight, as Mstar continues to be the largest and most experienced service provider on the UTOPIA network. Any questions about UTOPIA’s website should be sent directly to the UTOPIA staff.

Forum commenter DIE-HARD has reported that he is an Mstar customer and hasn’t experienced any change in service or received any kind of notification of changes. I also put in an inquiry to one of my contacts at UTOPIA, but I haven’t heard anything back yet.

UPDATE: I’ve heard back from UTOPIA who said it is a temporary measure. They’ve started selling in Tremonton as has been rumored on the forum and wanted to make sure that Mstar would be prepared for a large influx of new customers before they’re listed.

Mstar Gone? UTOPIA Removes Them From the List of Providers

Frequent commenter Capt. Video pointed out that UTOPIA’s website no longer shows Mstar as a provider on the network, but there doesn’t appear to be any replacement for them. This means that no current providers offer video service. Mstar’s website, however, has not been similarly updated and still shows them as a provider. Anyone know what’s going on? Are current Mstar customers still getting service?

Insider: Broadweave Selling Re-branded Veracity Service, MSTAR to Follow Suit

Remember how Broadweave constantly hammered on the importance of owning thier own phone switch? Apparently it’s all talk and no walk. An insider has revealed that Broadweave resells phone service from Veracity for all of the customers they acquired from MSTAR on the iProvo network. With Broadweave unable to control all of the SIP session from one end to the other, it sounds like subscribers should be prepared for more of the finger-pointing game when their voice service experiences issues. That’ll be a great selling point for the marketers from Telerus, won’t it?

This same insider has reported that MSTAR plans to follow suit and switch their customers on UTOPIA from using NGT to Veracity. They would join Nuvont in selling white box services from Veracity and make XMission the only current provider to not do so. This will reportedly result in a loss of dialing features, voice mail boxes and even some toll-free numbers. Subscribers had better prepare for the worst.

Qwest and Verizon Sittin' in a Tree… M-E-R-G-I-N-G?

For several months now, rumors have been swirling about that Verizon may attempt to purchase Qwest, a move that would put us one step closer to a reversal of the 1984 breakup of Ma Bell. Most cite Qwest’s switch to selling re-branded Verizon Wireless service as testing the waters. Qwest is also in a weak financial position with dropping profits and subscriber losses. It’s no secret that the company has spent years trying to find a buyer after the company suffered precipitous drops in customer satisfaction and service quality from 2001 onward. Could cash-rich Verizon be the white knight they’ve been waiting for?

Maybe. Continue reading

Rumor: New UTOPIA Providers

I had an interesting conversation recently with the director of operations at a company that is one of the big players in the telecommunications industry in Utah and this individual confirmed that they were working with UTOPIA to begin to sell their retail telecom service with a UTOPIA transport. When asked when they would start providing service, this individual noted that they wanted to first be confident that UTOPIA would be reliable. It seems that they are doing testing and there’s even some infrastructure already being put in place. This is very exciting news.

If UTOPIA proves successful, I imagine that there will be a lot of service providers that will use UTOPIA as their transport in the cities where it is available instead of Qwest’s aging copper infrastructure. Ultimately, it will put pressure on Qwest to improve their infrastructure even in non-UTOPIA cities or “risk” having UTOPIA go in there as well. As we move into the future, companies and individuals are realizing that speed matters with telecommunications. Qwest has made some commitments to improve infrastructure with fiber-to-the-node; but while that offers improved download speeds, so far there haven’t been any pushes to significantly improve upload speeds which are becoming critical. Hopefully UTOPIA’s success will change that even for the cities it doesn’t service by pushing incumbents to invest in their infrastructure.

Rumor: Nuvont Won't Sell Customers to Broadweave

The rumor mill says that Nuvont has decided not to sell their customer base to Broadweave and will continue to operate on both UTOPIA and iProvo. This would cause more problems for the new owner of iProvo since one of their key selling points was to control both the retail and wholesale aspects of the network. Between Veracity and Nuvont, around 20-25% of the total retail customer base would not belong to Broadweave including a significant number of high-revenue business customers.

This is the latest in a string of bad news and worse rumors concerning Broadweave. The failure to close on-time combined with persistent rumors that Sorenson has walked away from the deal casts doubts on their financial ability to properly take over the network and the failure of the merger with Veracity robbed them of significant experience with commerical accounts. Much-improved technical support and customer service also can’t overcome the frequent outages of the TV programming guide or the dwindling number of VOD options. Broadweave, meanwhile, chooses to stay silent on clearing the air of rumors and doesn’t offer up explainations for these problems, leaving customers worried about the future of iProvo.

UPDATE: It’s confirmed.

Mayor Spins as Rumors Fly: Just What is Going on With iProvo?

The Deseret News recently ran an article on iProvo in which Mayor Billings claimed that iProvo is seeing a major turnaround under Broadweave’s direction. Certainly there are areas that have been improved drastically, live support being the most notable. Unfortunately, this improvement in response time has been at the cost of frequent outages with the TV programming guide, a 3-4 hour outage this morning for all Internet users and a lack of general notification as to what the heck exactly is going on.

Mstar is reportedly still receiving payments for customers they sold to Broadweave. Bills have arrived from Broadweave without explanation as to who this bill was from and their purchase of the network. Rates were scheduled to increase, but not notification was sent as to how existing plans will be migrated. This is top-notch management? There’s just two weeks for Sorenson to complete their review of the financing without so much as a peep as to how that’s going.

Amidst all this are many disturbing rumors floating around. CEO Steve Christensen is reportedly having to pay employee salaries out his own pocket. It’s also alleged that Broadweave is using trucks with city plates to do business in Provo. We’ve also witnessed the departure of all iProvo NOC techs and a significant amount of the rest of the staff, a major loss of expertise that cannot be easily compensated for. With the lack of basic notifications and the “silent running” attitude, it’s no wonder that rumors like this continue to persist.

Sounds like Broadweave needs to reconsider who’s doing their PR. Anyone out there willing to fill in the gaps?

Mstar Customers on iProvo Lose Access to E-mail With No Warning

As further evidence that the transition of iProvo’s Mstar customers to Broadweave is filled with potholes, I’ve heard that Mstar abruptly shut down customer e-mail addresses without any warning or notification from either Mstar or Broadweave, the company who bought those customers. Combine that with a total lack of notification on billing changes (Mstar is reportedly still getting payments from customers they no longer service) and it appears that the highly-touted customer service Broadweave promised has ended up a dud.

I guess George Stewart picked a good time to leave the city council, now didn’t he?