I had the chance to visit with Gary Jones, UTOPIA’s new sales and marketing guy, Julie Paulson, the new PR flack, and Kirt Sudweeks, the CFO, to get some updates on how things are going to be playing out this building season. I got a pretty good rundown of where they’re going, and I think the plan is good enough to work.
The network currently has about 9,000 subscribers out of 56,000 marketable addresses. The plan calls for adding on 5,000 new subscribers each of the next five years. Under the UIA model, this would cover all operating expenses of the new subscribers and the operating expenses of the existing subscribers while potentially providing a small offset of the current pledges (though significant offsets aren’t scheduled until 2015). Existing subscribers will be given the chance to participate in the UIA model, either to buy their connection outright or finance it over 20 years, either of which will eliminate the built-in network construction costs from the old model. This would also provide a significant influx of cash to UTOPIA to help with construction. There’s also a lot going into identifying potential subscribers in areas with the network in the ground that aren’t currently signed up.
Those of you living in cities that chose to participate in the UIA will be able to sign up under the new model, but the ability of UTOPIA to build depends on group participation and proximity to existing network. If you’re next to one of the anchor institutions being wired with stimulus money, it’ll be easier to hook you up. That, in turn, makes adjacent neighborhoods easier to hook up, and so on. If you live in a small pocket without service available, talk to your neighbors and get that interest registered on UTOPIA’s website.
Now allow me to inject some reality in here. I think UTOPIA’s plan is doable. Adding 5,000 new subscribers a year, if split between new construction and existing areas, would run under 10% marketshare per year. UTOPIA can conceivably hit 35-40% of the markets they serve as iProvo did. If you’re like me and want UTOPIA to succeed and really REALLY want to get service, you’d better be prepared to work. I keep on saying it, but it bears repeating: you’re in the driver’s seat. Don’t sit back and wait for service to come to you, be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.
If the expansion is citizen-driven and UTOPIA properly executes on the plan (which has been a sore point before), it’ll only be a few years before there’s money to pay the bonds. I have better confidence this time around because unlike Brigham City, the money is already approved and waiting for construction. (Seriously, getting the bonds passed and figuring out what to do in the areas with lower take rates cost at lest 3-4 months.) Now get out there and do your part to make this thing work.