U-CAN Salt Lake County Interim Meeting: July 29th at 7PM

There will be an interim meeting of U-CAN for Salt Lake County residents on July 29th at 7PM. We will be meeting at the Holladay Library on Murray-Holladay Road just east of Highland Dr. While this is specifically for Salt Lake County residents, anyone is welcome to attend.

UTOPIA Posts Another New RFP

Rolling stones gather no moss and UTOPIA is barrelling down the hill. There’s a new RFP up on their website looking for fiber splicing and testing to tentatively begin in August. The RFP closes on August 1, so it looks like they’re sticking to an aggressive expansion strategy. Good news for those of you staring at dark fiber in your town!

Next U-CAN Meeting: July 26 in Orem

The next meeting of the UTOPIA Citizen’s Advisory Network (U-CAN) will be held on Saturday July 26th at noon in the Commission for Economic Development Office (CEDO) conference room at 777 S State St in Orem. As usual, anyone interested in getting more information about UTOPIA, getting updates on the progress of the network or helping UTOPIA succeed is welcome to join.

I’m also working on something a little less formal on Tuesday July 29th in the evening for Salt Lake County as an interim meeting. Announcements will be made as I firm up a location.

UTOPIA Construction to Start in August, Just as Planned

Forum poster luminous has pointed out on the forums that UTOPIA has posted a new RFP to start construction again by August. This falls in line with the expectations set with city councils in April and May to waste no time in getting things rolling again. It's definitely good news that the project is meeting it's goals so far at this early stage of reorganization. If things keep up this way, residents of RUS cities will see service by this fall.

Mstar Down to a Single Engineer?

We've all known that the situation at Mstar was dire, but who would have guessed it was this bad? Mstar is reportedly down to a single network engineer to handle all of their operations and technical support issues. The anonymous poster also claims that most of the customer service reps aren't trained to do any kind of basic troubleshooting, leaving that responsibility up to him to tackle. It sounds like the turmoil continues.

h/t: Dirk van der Woude

EXCLUSIVE: Veracity Pulls Out of Broadweave Merger, Sorenson Possibly Backing Out, iProvo Sale on Verge of Failure

High placed sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, have confirmed that Veracity has pulled out of the merger with Broadweave and that Sorenson Capital may have withdrawn financial backing as a result. The 60-day delay cited by Broadweave in the papers is rumored to be buying time to find new backers. The loss of Veracity combined with the iProvo NOC employees who have left means that video experience is almost non-existent and staff resources will be stretched dangerously thin. This may account for anonymous commenters who have reported issues reaching customer service over the last several days. When asked about these details, Provo City employees involved in the deal were unaware of the failure of the merger.

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Report From the Initial Meeting of U-CAN

Today was the inaugural meeting of the UTOPIA Citizens Advisory Network or U-CAN for short. Attendance was about a dozen and we had some great conversations getting caught up on the status of UTOPIA and an idea of where it's going. Some highlights:

  • UTOPIA is looking at using Special Assessment Areas to expand services in non-member areas and unincorporated county lands. It's a voluntary tax increase in order to pay for deploying the network and doing the installation costs in a specified area that takes advantage of 15-year government bonds and the low interest rates they enjoy. The cost of installation will be assessed entirely to members of the SAA.
  • There's going to be some announcements soon on new service providers as soon as next week. Up to 4 could be announced over the next month and at least one is rumored to be interested in providing triple-play services.
  • The new bond closed in late May as planned, so we may yet see construction by August. The UTOPIA website is actively soliciting new employees, a Business Sales Director and Teams Coordinator, as well as an RFP for asset management software and services.
  • Speaking of UTOPIA's website, they are working on a new one with more updates and information. This will also include a mapping application to show you where the demand for UTOPIA is so you can find out if your neighborhood is higher or lower on the priority list.

Meetings are going to be held at least monthly and will rotate between the member cities to give everyone an equal chance to participate. I'm also planning on provisional monthly meetings outside of this rotation for Davis, Salt Lake and Utah Counties to encourage better participation in pledging member cities. The regular monthly meetings will be as follows:

  • July 2008: Orem (Utah County)
  • August 2008: Layton (Davis County)
  • September 2008: Brigham City (Box Elder County)
  • October 2008: Murray (Salt Lake County)
  • November 2008: Lindon (Utah County)
  • December 2008: Centerville (Davis County)

I'll announce the meeting times and locations here on the website as they are scheduled. Meetings will be tentatively planned for the 4th Saturday of the month at noon. If you want to receive U-CAN related announcements via e-mail, send a blank message to ucan-announce-subscribe@freeutopia.org to get on the mailing list.

Shakeup at Mstar: CEO and Chief Marketing Officer Part Ways With Company

After several rounds of laying off the rank-and-file, it looks like executives are among those now leaving the company. Mstar CEO Ben Gould and Chief Marketing Officer Kirk Tanner are no longer with the company, reportedly having departed voluntarily. The word on the street, according to the Daily Herald, is that Gould got an offer to go elsewhere whereas Tanner's status is unknown. John Hansen of Chicago Venture Partners LP, Mstar's owner, has taken over in the interim and there aren't plans in the near future to hire a new chief marketing officer.

Given their performance problems on iProvo and the decimated customer base from the sale of iProvo, it's not surprising to hear that Mstar went through some more slashing. Their plan is to re-focus on building a customer base on UTOPIA, secure additional financing and pursue opportunities on other fiber optic networks around the country. Also of note is that Broadweave offered a settlement to Mstar to get them to drop their objections to the sale of iProvo.

The question now remains: can Mstar survive? Post your thoughts in the comments. 

Centerville Forming UTOPIA Oversight Committee

Centerville is taking a proactive role in making sure UTOPIA's health stays under close watch by forming an advisory committee composed of both residents and city officials. The city council is currently accepting applications from residents who are interested in participating and the word on the street is that three will be chosen to help provide feedback on UTOPIA and participate in promotional efforts. If you're interested in serving on the committee, contact your city council member. If you don't get selected, there's still going to be plenty of opportunities through U-CAN. 

Press Release: UTOPIA Launches New Citizens Advisory Network


UTOPIA Executive Director Todd Marriott has announced the formation of the UTOPIA Citizens Advisory Network (U-CAN) to help provide feedback from the public on the direction UTOPIA is going. Jesse Harris, a local activist who runs FreeUTOPIA.org, has been selected to chair the new group. Harris has spent significant time and effort following developments related to UTOPIA since September of 2006. “Our goal is to help spread the word about UTOPIA and provide ideas on how the network can improve,” he said. He continued: “I’m very excited to bring the community of municipal telecommunications supporters together so that we can help make this network succeed.”

U-CAN plans to hold its first meeting on Saturday June 28 from noon until 1:30PM at the Ruth Vine Tyler Library, 8041 S Wood Street in Midvale. A representative from UTOPIA will be on hand to answer questions from meeting attendees. Regular monthly meetings will be scheduled across the Wasatch Front to give residents of all member cities an equal chance to participate.

About UTOPIA: UTOPIA is a consortium of 16 Utah cities that provides a next-generation fiber optic network for providers of telecommunications services and provides some of the fastest Internet speeds in the nation. It promotes a competitive marketplace by allowing smaller private companies to lease the network and provide services to residents within its service area and is open to allowing new providers and services on the network.

About Jesse Harris: Mr. Harris is an IT professional from White City Township and activist for municipal fiber optic networks. He has been blogging about municipal fiber optic projects and telecommunications at FreeUTOPIA.org since September of 2006. He is a recognized authority on municipal telecommunications projects in Utah and has been interviewed about UTOPIA and iProvo by the Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, Salt Lake City Weekly and Daily Herald.