Help Me Find Fellow UTOPIA Supporters

It seems that part of the biggest problem with advocating for UTOPIA is that supporters don't really know each other. Most of the people I've met who are enthusiastic about UTOPIA have been contacts through this site and at various government meetings, though I'm sure that just scratches the surface. Just today, I stumbled across Woods Cross UTOPIA, a site supporting UTOPIA in Woods Cross. (They also have a handy, dandy list of which council members are in favor of joining.) I managed to find the Pro-UTOPIA mailing list by total accident when a message got cross-posted to Pete Ashdown's UT Politech list. While I appreciate happy accidents, we really need a better way of finding each other.

It's also hard to keep on top of meetings that concern UTOPIA. I usually find out that a city has been considering membership long after they've held public hearings and starting taking down the votes. The legislative subcommittee responsible for UTOPIA-related legislation changes every year (both name and membership). Mainstream news sources often miss reporting on these matters until days after they've happened if at all. This is despite tracking several dozen RSS feeds and getting e-mail alerts from Google on a regular basis.

What I need is your help. If you know UTOPIA supporters, if you know about upcoming meetings concerning UTOPIA, if you know about a movement in your city to get UTOPIA, I want to know! Drop me an e-mail and I'm happy to help out in any way I can. I'll create and conduct presentations, I'll do a brain dump on the knowledge I have, I'll attend upcoming meetings and hearings. Qwest and Comcast each put on their own united front; it's time we do the same.

Slashdot Ripples

Being linked from Slashdot sends a lot of ripples in its wake. Frank over at Comcast Issue was recently mentioned in a story there and some of that success spilled over to here. Frank's been trying to get UTOPIA service out to West Jordan for along time with a renewed push after Comcast shut off his service unexpected for violating some unknown cap on usage. (You know, because "unlimited" doesn't really mean "unlimited".) What does that have to do with FreeUTOPIA? That linkage spilled over to here from an article Frank posted on the White City ComCo meeting he attended. An average of 80-something visits a day spiked to nearly 400 yesterday.

Congrats to Frank for shining the light on the dark recesses of Comcast's shady practices and getting some props.

Clipper Plugs FreeUTOPIA, Cites Delays in UTOPIA Installation

Yesterday's Davis County Clipper ran an article about UTOPIA's installation delays, plugging FreeUTOPIA in the process. Where does the blame lie for slow installations? Look no further than the Rural Utility Service. Though the RUS approved a loan to UTOPIA for rural broadband development last fall, paperwork has kept the loan from closing in a timely manner. Once closed, however, it opens the door to deployments in Brigham City, Tremonton, Centerville and Payson, at a minimum.

While the delays can be frustrating, it's worth drastically lowering the cost of installation for member cities. That's probably a small consolation for residents in Murray, Midvale, Orem and West Valley City where construction has temporarily stopped to be able to leverage the federal dollars. The money from the RUS has an expiration date and can only be used on cities with a population under 20,000.

Roger Black, the COO for UTOPIA, says that areas where it's been installed are seeing a 21% take rate, slightly below initial projections but above the take rates needed to have UTOPIA run in the black. This good financial news is in stark contrast to the red ink projected to bleed from iProvo for the foreseeable future despite having a significantly higher take rate. The takeaway is that pooled risk is a Good Thing(TM), something that Provo and American Fork apparently didn't get the memo on.

The funniest thing I find about being mentioned in the Clipper is that I had no idea it was coming until I read the article. You'd think they would want to talk to the guy running a website they find useful.

(See full article here.) 

Moving to New Digs

If you’re seeing this, welcome to the new webserver! Due to traffic demands on the old server, I’ve relocated to Slicehost. This should mean a definite increase in both speed and availability. Be sure to let me know if you experience any oddities.

As a side note, I’ve also migrated to WordPress 2.1 to improve security and the features available. It takes a lot of work to get that accomplished (especially since botched database installs are a common complaint), though I think I have everything worked out now.

New Anti-Spam Measures

Due to the excessive amount of incoming spam in the last few days, I've turned on the Bad Behavior plugin to try and limit it. This might cause some legitimate access to be blocked, but I've not had any reports of problems on other blogs I've used it on. It seems most of them are trying to exploit trackbacks to accomplish this, so I might turn them off at a later date as an extra measure.

Brothers in Arms

I've added a new category of links for other websites promoting the benefits of municipal fiber projects. So far, I have advocates from Palo Alta, CA; Lafayette, LA; and St. Charles, IL linked as well as the FTTH Council, an organization whose municipal and corporate members all provide fiber services to the home.

Know of someone I missed? Let me know so I can get them added. 

FreeUTOPIA Gets Press

I was interviewed about UTOPIA in an article in the latest Salt Lake City Weekly. Grab a copy from one of dozens of places around town or see below for the link to the article.

Unsurprisingly, Comcast and Qwest are denying that UTOPIA has forced them to be more competitive, yet the article can cite differential pricing in areas with UTOPIA and a sudden interest by both carriers in delivering broadband to Brigham City after they signed up with UTOPIA. The article also cites how both Qwest and Comcast have been using 1-year contracts to lock people into their service just head of UTOPIA rollouts. Same old game, guys, and we're wise to it. 

(See full article.)

Free UTOPIA! (Or, "What's all this then?")

One day, I decided to find out what I needed to do to get UTOPIA service at my home in White City. To my chagrin, state law prohibits unincorporated areas of Utah from participating in the UTOPIA project, and the e-mail response I got advised me to contact my elected officials to get the law changed so that I could get service in my area. I decided to go one better: start this website to not only advocate the change in the law, but act as an advocate for municipal broadband in general.

My purpose is to make sure elected officials know that there are 180,000 residents in Salt Lake County alone that are ineligible for UTOPIA or other municipal broadband projects unless they change this law. As unincorporated areas of Utah continue to grow at incredible rates, more and more people will be shut out from participating in the best competition to the local cable and telephone companies.

Want to get UTOPIA in your area? Check to see if you're in one of the participating cities. If you live in a city, write to your city council and mayor. If you're stuck in an unservicable area like I am, petition your county and state leaders to take action and get UTOPIA to your home now!