A private company in the far reaches of Nunavut, Canada is providing high-speed satellite Internet access to remote villages. The service has been bringing increased access to goods and services and the information is helping local businesses improve the way they operate. Of course, this comes at a price: $60 a month for the service, a large premium over fiber-based services like UTOPIA provides. There's also no competition for services. If UTOPIA expands to smaller communities like Vernal, Logan, and Moab, you could see the same benefits taking shape and a true expansion of broadband to rural areas.
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Thanks to the cable/telco duopoly, Americans are lagging behind with adopting broadband since it's just too darned expensive. While the Japanese and Koreans can enjoy a bundle of telephone, cable, and high-speed Internet (often at speeds well beyond what we can get here) for about $35 a month, it's hard to find just an Internet connection for that in this country. Over 1/3 of US households still have no choice but dial-up for Internet access.
Alarmingly, companies like AT&T have been lobbying to get municipal WiFi systems outlawed. I guess they figure that if they can't compete on price or service, it's time to roll out the high-priced lawyers. This should come as little surprise as AT&T was one of the chief proponents of a tiered Internet, effectively ending "Net Neutrality".
Since the telcos and cablecos are doing such a terrible job of rolling out access and affordably pricing their services, can there be any other option but municipal broadband projects like UTOPIA? Wishful thinking isn't going to get them in line with thier 1996 Telecommunications Act promises.
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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!