UTOPIA has never been in a better position. Revenues have exceeded operating expenditures for a considerable amount of time, new footprints are being opened for service every month, and many member cities have been finally embracing the network as a vital part of their infrastructure. While Orem has been putting in a lot of time drawing up plans, Layton actually beat them to the punch and pulled the trigger on an expansion that will take no more than 24 months to cover the rest of the city.
In many ways, this is a lot like the UIA plan where bonds are issued to be paid back by pledging subscribers. There’s a couple differences, though. For starters, UIA can now issue bonds on its own authority. This means cities no longer have to use their bonding capacity to back them. The Layton plan also has the city backing the bonds using city franchise fees. If the subscriber numbers fall below what is required to pay the bond (which, to date, has not happened in a single UIA expansion area), the city pledges to cover the difference. On the flip side, if revenues exceed the bond payments (which has happened in most UIA expansion areas), the city gets to keep a cut of that for whatever they want. This could include paying off the original UTOPIA bonds, funding other city services, or anything else, really. It’s important to note that this revenue split option is only available to cities who assumed the original debt service.
A limiting factor is the available construction crews and materials. UTOPIA has said they’re currently connecting 1500 homes per month. The current housing boom has made finding additional people to build challenging. Add in that at least 20 (currently unnamed) cities are conducting feasibility studies with UTOPIA and you can see very quickly that rapid expansion may not exactly be in the cards. The take rate barrier for new cities is a scant 30%, low enough that it makes sense to pull the trigger and get your place in line. At least 40% of currently connected customers are opting for gigabit service, hinting that the revenue streams are there and won’t be meaningfully impacted by users opting for the slower 100M or 250M tiers.