Multimedia Edition: Mayor Becker on UTOPIA, Utah Taxes Now Conference on Muni Telecom

Coming to you today is a two-fer of audio on UTOPIA.

First up is a conversation on KCPW's Midday Metro where Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker responds to a caller question on Salt Lake City's future with UTOPIA. He's definitely supportive of local decisions regarding the matter, though he's also cautious about joining because of the slow sign-ups and cost issues involved. His solution? Get the voters to speak up and say yea or nay. Listen to the full response here (MP3 Download). h/t: Paul Alexander who called in the question and sent me the MP3 response.

Second is a panel discussion on iProvo and UTOPIA at the Utah Taxes Now Conference with Utah Taxpayers Association President Sen. Howard Stephenson, Provo Mayor Lewis Billings and UTOPIA's new Executive Director Todd Marriott. Given that this is a UTA-sponsored event and the panel discussion was titled "The Collapse of Municipal Telecom in Utah", you've gotta know that the audience was probably stacked against both iProvo and UTOPIA. For those that have been listening to the discussion on municipal networks for a long time, you probably won't find a lot new in this discussion, but it's worth listening to anyway. The full conversation can be played from here (embedded audio). h/t: Utah Policy Daily who linked the audio of the conference.

Open Thread: PacketFront's Relationship to UTOPIA

Per reader request, I'm opening up a thread to discuss the relationship between PacketFront and UTOPIA.

Some background: Last year, PacketFront purchased DynamicCity, the project management group for UTOPIA. DC also did consulting on projects in Arizona and Palo Alto, CA. PacketFront is a Swedish company that draws on a considerable amount of industry experience from that country's construction of an open-access fiber optic network. As part of the purchase, the Lindon office has been maintained in its current location.

My understanding of PacketFront's relationship to UTOPIA is that they assumed the contract for project management from DynamicCity and have continued in that role with Chris Hogan, VP of Marketing, being the most public figure. A search on LinkedIn shows at least 12 PacketFront employees in the Intermountain West, some of whom I recognize as former employees of DynamicCity.

Questions? Comments? Rude noises? I'd also invite any employees of PacketFront to chime in to provide any additional details or clarification. 

Leaks: Broadweave Will Buy Out Customer Lists From Existing iProvo Providers

This morning, an inside source disclosed the fate of the existing iProvo retailers. According to this source, Broadweave plans to announce on Thursday that they will be buying out the customer lists from MSTAR, Veracity and Nuvont to become the sole retailer on the network. This move comes as MSTAR has been found to be about $950K in arrears to Provo for their use of the network, only $75K of which is expected to be paid prior to the transition. As part of the acquisition, Broadweave will assume the remainder as a debt due to it from MSTAR.

Between this debt load and their recent layoffs, there is serious concern that MSTAR could fold in the very near future leaving UTOPIA without a triple-play provider. This comes as Todd Marriott announced at the Payson City Council meeting that some new triple-play providers are on-deck to join the network and increase competitive choice, no doubt a result of his experience in the telecommunications field. Since the sale of iProvo to Broadweave looks likely to close and the deadline for sale in June 30, there's little time left to pick up the pieces if MSTAR's financial condition rapidly deteriorates.

Todd Marriott Named New UTOPIA Executive Director

As unveiled at the meeting in Payson, Todd Marriott was named as the new Executive Director of UTOPIA today. I had suspected it from the moment they introduced him at one of the earlier meetings and it's exciting to have someone with sales savvy and a passion for open networks take the helm to lead UTOPIA in a sorely-needed new direction. I can't find much about him online other than a stint with CityLink Networks in Fruit Heights, but he seems to really know his stuff. Here's to hoping things get back on track.

Payson Says No Again By 4-1 Vote

Despite high hopes. Payson's City Council voted 4-1 against the new UTOPIA bonds citing concerns about their future revenue streams. Council Member Hancock cast the lone yes vote despite getting a second for the motion to adopt the resolution. This means that they will likely have to start paying out around $259K every year over the next 19 years to satisfy their portion of the old bonds.

I view this move as a calculated risk. Payson knew they were getting their network regardless of how they voted because it makes financial sense for UTOPIA. They also know that their pledge amount is small enough that it won't sink the deal. In short, they knew that opting to not pledge additional money would not mean they wouldn't see more of the network and decided to enjoy the benefit of UTOPIA without risking any more money. I think they also have a hope in their mind that UTOPIA may not call their bond pledge immediately or may opt not to do so at all if it can retire the old bond with the proceeds of the new bond. I hope that isn't their game because it's very unfair to other member cities. 

Off Again, On Again: Payson to Reconsider Vote on New UTOPIA Bonds

After more waffles than you'd see in an Eggo plant, Payson has decided that they need to rethink their vote on the new UTOPIA bonds after being the lone hold-out. The city council will meet Monday May 12 at 6PM to reconsider backing the new UTOPIA bonds, a move that's eerily reminiscent of their "no we aren't, yes we are" vote on joining in the first place. The meeting will be held at 439 W. Utah Ave. and it's unknown if additional public comment will be heard. For good measure, supporters in the area should do their best to show up anyway.

I 'll be there, though it's going to be back-to-back with the iProvo open house the same night so I could be a few minutes late.

h/t: Jens Dana from the DMN. Had he not said anything to me on the phone tonight, I might not have heard about it until I was on my way to Zion Nat'l Park for a well-deserved vacation.

PacketFront Seeking UTOPIA Supporters

PacketFront is looking for UTOPIA supporters both in member and non-member cities to organize some peer-to-peer marketing efforts and spread information about UTOPIA via word-of-mouth. Please e-mail Chris Hogan, VP of Marketing at PacketFront, at if you're willing to help spread the network in member cities and get your city to join. I already know of a few small groups in Sandy, West Jordan, Taylorsville and Salt Lake City who are eager to join and the word on the street is that Cedar City has considered switching to pledging status sometime soon to speed construction.

Given the well-funded opposition to UTOPIA from Qwest, Comcast and the Utah Taxpayers Association, it's absolutely critical that we show up in force at future city council meetings and do everything we can to raise awareness and get others to sign up for service. Ten of the eleven pledging cities have decided to "double down" and give UTOPIA a second chance; it's up to us to help prove that this increased risk wasn't for nothing.

BREAKING: Murray Approves New UTOPIA Bonds 4-1

Less than an hour ago, Murray's City Council approved the new UTOPIA bonds by a vote of 4-1 with Council Member Pat Griffiths casting the lone dissenting vote. This paves the way for the new bonds to be in place by June 1. Rumor has it that Payson will be making a last-minute vote to reconsider now that all of the other cities have approved the new bonds.

Now that all of the votes are over and done with, I'll be taking some time next week to go over my notes from all of the meetings and try and give a more complete picture of where the network is at and where it is going. That might not be entirely necessary as the rumor mill says that UTOPIA will be re-launching their website by June 1 and will update it frequently. 

BREAKING: Orem Approves New UTOPIA Bonds By Unanimous Vote

After almost 2 hours of discussion and questions, the Orem City Council voted 6-0 to approve the new UTOPIA bonds and move forward with the new plan for the network. This leaves Murray as the last city to vote on the issue and all signs there point to yes. With only Payson refusing to sign off, this means that the new bonds will likely go through as originally envisioned and the RUS cities could be on the network in as little as 8 weeks after the financing comes through.

BREAKING: Brigham City Approves New UTOPIA Bonds by 4-1 Vote

Less than 2 hours ago, Brigham City voted in favor of the new UTOPIA bonds with Ruth Jensen casting the lone dissenting vote. They made their vote conditional upon approval by the remaining two pledging member cities, Orem and Murray, in a move similar to Centerville. With this vote, UTOPIA moves one step closer to securing the new financing and being able to move forward with its plans to continue construction in the RUS cities.