Take 2: Veracity/Broadweave Merger Back On

After a failed attempt at merger around a year ago, Veracity and Broadweave have decided to give a merger a second shot. The new company will be named Veracity Networks with Veracity’s Drew Peterson as CEO. Broadweave CEO Dave Moon will remain on the board.

So what’s the new company’s first step? To go to Provo’s city council to ask for a “restructuring” of the bond debt to lower payments by $82K per month for 18 months. I’m not sure how exactly that will work out without the city basically floating the difference during that time frame (an action surely to come under fire from both incumbent providers), but I’m hoping Broadweave will take a new tack with being a bit more open as to what the heck they’re doing. After all, a significant amount of public money is still on the line and if they ask Provo to dip into the till to keep things going, citizens deserve to know what they’re getting for what may be an interest-free loan.

Broadweave was gracious enough to invite me down to their offices to inform me personally. After the sharp criticisms I’ve had for the company, I was surprised they extended the olive branch. I suppose that’s one of the many positive side effects of an almost total refresh of company management. All the same, the visit was very cordial and felt very much like a press release event rather than a heart-to-heart. (I’m still sure that my picture is on more than a few dartboards around the office.)

I see the merger as a bit of a mixed bag. Veracity brings a lot to the table including large corporate customers, experience competing against and working with incumbents (they offer services on Qwest’s network), a stable cash flow, and significant technical experience. They also bring potential access to UTOPIA for Broadweave via their existing contracts.

On the other hand, asking for another hand-out from the city instead of making it on their own will likely rankle a city council that thought they’d managed to wash their hands of the deal. If the council doesn’t go along, it begs the question as to where additional funding will be found from. Not knowing what Veracity’s available cash flow is, it’s hard to tell if that side of the equation would be able to staunch the flow of money from the surety enough to allow Broadweave/Veracity to sign up more customers. At the very least, this makes iProvo even more of an election issue than it was before for all sitting council members as well as the mayor.

For the time being, I’m content to watch from a distance and see what happens. My opinion of Broadweave hasn’t yet been changed, but I’ll willing to give them a second chance and benefit of a doubt.

Rumor: Broadweave on UTOPIA?

I received word from a reliable source at a service provider that Broadweave may be considering joining UTOPIA. This information was passed along from a company that both of them do business with. According to this company, Broadweave has stepped up its outsourced call center operations in preparation for adding new customers on UTOPIA’s network.

UTOPIA and Broadweave have had an acrimonious working relationship in the past stemming from the entanglement between UTOPIA and iProvo regarding the head-end assets. This was no doubt hurt further by ex-CEO Steve Christensen’s forceful and demanding management style. The question is if the upending of upper management is enough to mend the relationship to the point where this rumor becomes fact.

If true, this would be a really good (and smart) move for Broadweave. They’ve hit a brick wall with adding customers on iProvo and are under a “do or die” deadline of February when the reserve runs out of cash. The rumors that they will soon be booted from Traverse Mountain also persist, though nothing new has developed. Getting access to the tens of thousands of UTOPIA homes passed and preserving some of their Traverse Mountain customers could give them the revenue needed to pay off the iProvo bonds and better leverage their head-end and NOC facilities.

Of course, we should also ask if Broadweave would be good for UTOPIA. Customer service complaints still persist and the company may not have the cash available to market to new customers unless EsNet makes additional investments. Broadweave has also failed to deliver video to Traverse Mountain despite the acquisition of a head-end, something I understand to be one of the main reasons for that development’s discontent. There’s also the matter of going from a geographically condense market to one spread over a 120-mile stretch, something that could drive their install costs up.

We should also wonder if Broadweave joining an open network like UTOPIA would signal that they’re ready to give the wholesale model another shot in Provo. Apparently closing the network wasn’t enough to staunch the flow of red ink as they claimed it would. Outside providers have money to spend on snapping up new accounts while Broadweave is charging around $600 for installs (and, I should note, not offering a discount on monthly service as a result). It’s entirely possible that a reciprocity agreement with UTOPIA providers to give them access to the network could result in higher overall revenues even at the expense of retail customers. Research from The Yankee Group suggests that an open provider model generates more revenue than adding lots of extra services, revenue that Broadweave needs.

So what do you think? If this happens, will it be good for Broadweave, UTOPIA, both, or neither?

Sale Fail: Provo Considering Contingencies for iProvo

Found a nice little tidbit buried at the end of a story on Provo’s financial difficulties. Apparently the city is already preparing for the worst case scenario of getting the network back as Broadweave has depleted half of the reserve fund to make bond payments. Given that Broadweave is likely to lose a large chunk of reliable revenue from Traverse Mountain should they get booted out, my money is on the network being back in city hands by next year. Anyone want to give odds on this?

Utah Tops In Internet Adoption, But What About Speeds?

The Deseret News reported that Utah has the highest rate of Internet use of any state, topping out at 74.8% of homes. In a “well duh” moment, they attribute it to the young population and large concentration of tech companies. What was missing, however, is the full picture on how we’re doing speed-wise.

And that, friends, is a mixed bag. According to the results from SpeedTest.net, Utah doesn’t even crack the top 10 for download speeds. We do, however, place second when it comes to upload speeds, no doubt due to symmetrical connections available on the various fiber networks in our state. When you narrow in on our state, the best download and upload speeds come from Lindon and Orem, both cities with UTOPIA fiber. Provo comes in fourth on both lists with Broadweave/iProvo. Incumbents don’t fare so well. Qwest doesn’t crack either top 10 list and Comcast only makes the download list.

We should be demanding not just that Internet access be widespread, but that it be high-quality as well. The incumbents’ inability to deliver next-generation bandwidth is leaving us far behind the rest of the pack.

Rumor: Broadweave to Be Booted From Traverse Mountain As Soon As This Week

A reliable source passed along a rumor that Broadweave’s troubles in Traverse Mountain are about to come to an end, but not in the way the company would like. Residents, after years of not getting video and being required to purchase phone service that many don’t use, are reportedly about to have the HOA sever the contract with Broadweave for data and voice services. Given the amount of griping I’ve seen on the Traverse Mountain Community forum, it’s not surprising to see this happen. I find it ironic that Broadweave cited high customer satisfaction in TM as a reason they were well-suited to operate iProvo.

Of particular interest is that the HOA is also rumored to be negotiating with several new service providers to replace Broadweave, including UTOPIA. If UTOPIA is being considered and ultimately wins the contract, residents would get immediate competition and triple-play services. (Side note: the administrator of the TM forum is apparently a UTOPIA employee who left iProvo.) It’s anyone’s guess as to if the rumor is true or not, but it makes sense given UTOPIA’s relationships with existing service providers and backbone proximity to the community.

UTOPIA Video Coming Soon; Prime Time Scrambling to do STB Replacements

Good news out of UTOPIA: the video product will be ready to launch as early as next week. Service providers will reportedly have a list of prices and channel lineups by Saturday in preparation for reselling to customers. I don’t have a list of the channel line-up, but I would bet it’s going to be competitive with both cable and satellite providers. Now that MSTAR/Prime Time won’t be the only video game in town, you’ll be free to grab triple-play any way you want it.

Speaking of Prime Time, the word on the street is that they’ve been rushing to upgrade all of the MSTAR STBs ahead of being cut off from Broadweave’s headend on May 1. With just two days left, sources tell me that some customers may experience a loss of service since there’s been so little time to do the swap. My understanding is that Prime Time is going to use their headend out of St. George rather than use UTOPIA’s new MPEG-4 headend. Have some patience with them.

Is Broadweave Charging Big Install Fees?

A blog post showed up in my Google Alerts from a Provo resident who claims that Broadweave may be charging big-time install fees for customers not already wired to iProvo. Per the poster’s account, they called on behalf of a neighbor and was told that any home not already hooked up would be assessed a $600 install fee. A lot of people hammered on UTOPIA for their install fee trial balloon and they responded with low install fees (if any) and a slightly higher but still competitive monthly rate to compensate. Broadweave had better smart up and take a play from that book.

Broadweave: No Cash for New Subs, Reserve Will Still Be Used for Bond Payments

The Daily Herald quotes Broadweave’s acting CEO David Moon as saying that Broadweave doesn’t have the capital to agressively sign up new customers right now. The money required to hook up hundreds of new customers each month just isn’t there and they plan to continue making bond payments from the reserve fund for the next eight to ten months. This move will end up spending over half of the reserve fund on the bond payments and, unless replenished, puts Provo in danger of picking up the pieces should Broadweave default on any payments when it runs out.

I’m having a tough time figuring out how Broadweave can’t make rent. The price increases of around $5 per month per service would have been enough to break even under city ownership, but Broadweave is also taking in all of the retail revenues. Where is all of the money going? And just how short is Broadweave on making those bond payments with its own money? I’m guessing very far out based on how long they intend to keep on using the reserve fund. Broadweave was given what should have been a slam-dunk sweetheart deal and they’ve somehow managed to bungle it all up. Good luck filling the CEO slot, guys.

Provo Gets Black Eye Over Sale of iProvo

The Society of Professional Journalists gave Provo an award, but not the kind they would want to get. The city received the 2009 Black Hole Award for repeatedly refusing to provide documents concerning the sale of iProvo to reporters from the Salt Lake Tribune. The failure to provide documents prevented newspapers and citizens from being able to review the terms of the sale prior to a vote by the city council. As I’ve repeatedly said, the failure to allow everyday citizens to review the full terms of the sale and the conditions under which it was negotiated combined with the rush for a quick vote was highly suspect. I suppose we all know that now with the multiple bond payments that have been made from a line of credit designed to protect the city should Broadweave fail.

BREAKING: Nuvont Selling iProvo Customers to Broadweave

A solid source tells me that Nuvont is selling their iProvo customers to Broadweave effective today. Nuvont will retain its VoIP and Internet customers on UTOPIA and remain a service provider there. This isn’t much of a surprise given that Broadweave would likely not negotiate an extension of existing contracts. Nuvont has reportedly already moved many of the video customers to satellite, so Broadweave will be gaining mainly single-play and double-play customers.