Murray joins Payson and Lindon in declining to move forward with the proposal from Macquarie. The council voted unanimously to pass despite not really having any other workable options on the table. Of course, they’re now in a heck of a pickle: Murray has attracted numerous businesses to the city (including a new location of the Moran Eye Center) with UTOPIA, but they’re running the risk of the network going dark if they won’t cover any operational shortfalls.
Centerville is also taking a vote tonight in a special council meeting. I’ll post when I have results from there.
Want to ask Macquarie some more burning questions? Interested in seeing how your city council votes? Here’s the so-far definitive list of what is happening and where. Note that any of these is subject to change and I’ll do my best to publish updates.
Thursday May 22: Brigham City will have an open house at the Bunderson Center, 641 E 200 N, from 6PM to 8PM. Macquarie will be there to answer one-on-one questions.
Tuesday May 27: Orem will have Nick Hann at the regular city council meeting to answer questions and take feedback. The council meets at 3PM in the Public Safety Training Room.
Tuesday May 27: Both West Valley City and Layton will be taking votes on advancing with Milestone Two during their normal city council meetings.
Tuesday June 3: Lindon will have a public discussion item on the city council agenda. They meet 7PM at the Lindon City Center on State St.
Thursday June 5: Murray will have an open house at the Doty Center inside the Intermountain Medical Center complex. It starts at 6:30PM.
Thursday June 5: Centerville will have an open house, education session, and public Q&A at 7:30PM. I’m assuming it’s at city hall, but the location is unclear.
Tuesday June 17: Centerville, Tremonton, and Lindon should all be taking votes on advancing with Milestone Two during their normal city council meetings.
Notably absent from the list are Payson and Perry, cities that seem to have adopted “bury our heads in the sand and hope for the best” as their strategy. If you live in either city, you should contact your mayor and city council to give them a nudge.
Now that UTOPIA has $16.2M in federal funding, the question is what it’s going to do. The money itself is specifically to hook up “anchor institutions” such as schools, libraries, healthcare facilities, and government buildings. This money will be used to run fiber to over 400 buildings in Perry, Payson, Midvale, Murray, Centerville, Layton, Orem, and West Valley City. With those connections in the ground, it will be much less expensive to build out to nearby neighborhoods. That is, provided that your city joined the UIA and is willing to finance the cost of installations. A few cities are either in opposition to or on the fence about joining the UIA, so the fiber would stop at those anchor institutions. Time is limited to get them on the boat, so make sure you’re hounding them about joining.
As of a couple of days ago, applicants for broadband stimulus funds are now listed on the NTIA’s website. Utah has a number of applicants including the University of Utah, The Utah Transit Authority, and, not surprisingly, UTOPIA.
Several rural ILECs have also gotten into the game including Emery Telecom and Manti Tele Communications. Emery is apparently looking to deploy FTTP to beef up their triple-play offerings and replace their existing HFC CATV network. The finished product would be active Ethernet like iProvo and UTOPIA with up to 1Gbps at each address served. A separate request would use FTTN and wireless to reach more remote areas. Manti, meanwhile, is looking to use WiMax to reach more remote areas that currently do not have broadband service. Both of these projects are good news for Utahns.
Ogden City has also made an application to provide broadband access to government services and underserved residents. There is also an application for what appears to be a city-wide WiFi network. Given their reluctance to join UTOPIA, it’s rather surprising that they have done an about-face on city-provided services. My best guess is that they were holding out for someone else to pay for it.
So what about UTOPIA? They made three separate applications totaling around $54M. The only thing available is a general overview, but the requests appear to be targeted at Orem, Murray, Midvale, West Valley City, Layton, and Centerville. One of them hints at using a special assessment area (SAA) to triple the impact of at least $10.5M of the money applied for. Depending on how fast NTIA can review and approve applications, we may soon know if there will be more money for UTOPIA construction in the near term.
With applicants asking for 7 times what’s available in the first round, it will be interesting to see who makes the cut.
The UTA recently released a report that UTOPIA will be calling on tax pledges this year. They cite an April statement from Murray Mayor Dan Snarr as their sole evidence. “At this point in time, no tax dollars have been used on this project. That may change, and we may need to help pay for some of the operations until there are enough customers to cover expenses.” Rep. Craig Frank was all too willing to quickly attach himself to this report as solid truth. The problem for the UTA (and by extension Rep. Frank), however, is that this is their only evidence, this statement has been repeated over and over since the refinancing (elected officials need to hedge their bets), and there’s no way it would be possible for UTOPIA to call on pledge dollars anytime this year.
The facts are simple. UTOPIA does not have a bond payment due from operating revenue until June 2010. There is absolutely no possible way that they can legally call on the sales tax pledges this year as the UTA asserts. Elected officials have been saying the same thing as Mayor Snarr for the last year to cover their own butts in a worst case scenario. The UTA is just trying to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt without citing any new or relevant facts. It’s scaremongering, pure and simple.
If UTOPIA is really doing so poorly, how is it that they managed to sign on Integra Telecom, a company that measures its revenues in the hundreds of millions? Don’t you think a company of that caliber (which is likely going to bring in hundreds of thousands or millions in new revenue) would do their due diligence? And how is it that there’s no criticism for city-owner power or the horrendously botched sale of iProvo? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Seems like you folks like to reserve your criticism for easy targets.
Today was the inaugural meeting of the UTOPIA Citizens Advisory Network or U-CAN for short. Attendance was about a dozen and we had some great conversations getting caught up on the status of UTOPIA and an idea of where it's going. Some highlights:
UTOPIA is looking at using Special Assessment Areas to expand services in non-member areas and unincorporated county lands. It's a voluntary tax increase in order to pay for deploying the network and doing the installation costs in a specified area that takes advantage of 15-year government bonds and the low interest rates they enjoy. The cost of installation will be assessed entirely to members of the SAA.
There's going to be some announcements soon on new service providers as soon as next week. Up to 4 could be announced over the next month and at least one is rumored to be interested in providing triple-play services.
Speaking of UTOPIA's website, they are working on a new one with more updates and information. This will also include a mapping application to show you where the demand for UTOPIA is so you can find out if your neighborhood is higher or lower on the priority list.
Meetings are going to be held at least monthly and will rotate between the member cities to give everyone an equal chance to participate. I'm also planning on provisional monthly meetings outside of this rotation for Davis, Salt Lake and Utah Counties to encourage better participation in pledging member cities. The regular monthly meetings will be as follows:
July 2008: Orem (Utah County)
August 2008: Layton (Davis County)
September 2008: Brigham City (Box Elder County)
October 2008: Murray (Salt Lake County)
November 2008: Lindon (Utah County)
December 2008: Centerville (Davis County)
I'll announce the meeting times and locations here on the website as they are scheduled. Meetings will be tentatively planned for the 4th Saturday of the month at noon. If you want to receive U-CAN related announcements via e-mail, send a blank message to firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the mailing list.