Confirmed: Infowest to Provide Residential Service

I’ve had it confirmed that Infowest, currently a commercial provider, will be participating on UTOPIA as a residential provider as part of the new UIA expansion push. Given that Prime Time, Connected Lyfe, and Fuzecore have all had to bow out for one reason or another, it’s good to know that there will be more options for residential customers who join the network in the future. I’m pretty sure they’ll offer voice and data, but no word on video options.

If you have any experience with Infowest, leave it in the comments.

What Happened to Prime Time, Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

When the Salt Lake Tribune published their story as to what’s going on with Prime Time Communications, they noted that they were unable to reach anyone for comment. Yours truly, however, scored a 40-minute phone interview with Bryon Wentzlaff, one of their VPs. From the sounds of things, it’s just one more example of why telecom is a tough business to break into no matter who you are. Prime Time hit a point where they were not making money and didn’t project doing so for the foreseeable future.

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Prime Time Goes the Route of MSTAR

Looks like I’m a little late to the reporting party, but better late than never: Prime Time is getting booted from UTOPIA. Apparently the company filed bankruptcy for the MSTAR subsidiary on September 3 after having pulled $2.2M out of itmonths earlier. (Yeah, I’m not sure where the money came from either.) This is after several of their other developments did the same earlier this year. Customers started losing phone service not long after that filing. After racking up $1M in unpaid bills (sound familiar?), UTOPIA wants to kick Prime Time and customers are being advised to seek other service providers.

With how heavily the company depended on private developments and how much work had to be done to fix the badly-tarnished MSTAR brand, this isn’t too surprising. The upshot is that with over a dozen other providers and at least a few offering video, nobody is entirely out in the cold.

Dispelling the Rumors: Prime Time Isn't Going Under

I’ve had several people now express concern over recent bankruptcy filings in other states by Prime Time Communications. More than a few people seem to be dedicated to fear-mongering that the entire company is about to fold. Unfortunately for the rumor mill, that’s entirely untrue. Here’s what’s really happening.

When a construction company starts a new housing development, the first thing they do is file a brand new LLC to isolate it from the rest of the company operations. This is to help prevent any liability from one project spilling over into other projects. In case one development fails miserably, the parent company can fold the single LLC without damaging the rest of the company. It’s pretty standard (and smart) practice.

Prime Time Communications does the same thing. When they contract to provide service to a new greenfield community, they isolate the operations into an LLC in case the housing project doesn’t quite pan out. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two plus years, you know that the housing market is, uh, “underperforming” (read: it crashed). Naturally, some of the projects that Prime Time was working on were in that mix. Rather than continue to incur losses on housing projects that had failed, the parent company chose to fold those LLCs through the bankruptcy process. So far, this has had no effect on the parent company or on any of the unrelated LLCs, including the one that provides service on UTOPIA.

Now someone out there seems to have an agenda in mind to confuse the facts and omit some of these critical parts of the story. If it’s you, knock it off. FUD doesn’t help anyone.

Reminder: Podcast Tomorrow

Just a reminder that the return of the FreeUTOPIA Podcast is tomorrow at 4PM. Come listen in online and feel free to call in at (347) 838-8025. Our guest will be Bryon Wentzlaff of Prime Time Communications. Special thanks to Mike Graves of The Surfonics for permission to use one of his songs for the new intro music.

Prime Time Speaks on the STB Replacement

I had a conversation today with Bryon Wentzlaff of Prime Time Communications and he answered a few questions on the STB replacement in progress. By his figures, about 1800 boxes were replaced leading up to the termination of signals from Broadweave that occurred on Sunday. That was all done in the last two weeks just after Prime Time inked the final deal to purchase MSTAR.

He also said there are still around 900 boxes left to replace, most in student housing. Part of the problem is that they didn’t have enough boxes to complete all of the replacements, but those are supposed to arrive in the Wasatch Front tomorrow morning and a team of 30 installers will be replacing them as fast as they can over the next two weeks. I know that’s small consolation to those of you looking at a blank screen after months (or years) of video issues with MSTAR, but have some patience with them. Replacing 2700 boxes in a month is no small feat.

Bumps in the Road for the Prime Time Takeover of MSTAR?

A forum poster on DSLReports isn’t too happy with Prime Time Communications. S/he reported had an STB swap last week that resulted in a loss of channels, frequent pixelation and/or tiling, and being downgraded from a dual-tuner DVR. They’re also reporting issues with out-of-sync audio and video with the new Aminet 530 STB. Given the rather hasty swap from the iProvo headend to the Prime Time one in St. George it’s not surprising to find a few bumps in the road but after years of MSTAR’s video issues, it’s very ill-timed.

Any readers out there with similar issues or pointers on how to fix it? Or, better yet, would someone from Prime Time like to reach out to give this guy a hand?

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.

Prime Time Communications to Buy Out Mstar

After months of rumors that Mstar has been looking to be acquired, it looks like Prime Time Communications, the newest provider, is the suitor. This gives Prime Time an instant customer base on UTOPIA and strengthens Mstar’s position as a triple-play provider. It comes at a cost, however. Now that Prime Time is the only triple-play provider, it means we’ll have to wait for UTOPIA’s wholesale video product, rumored to be ready next month, to see triple-play competition. I hope this means we’ll see rapid customer additions instead of the steadily eroding customer base that was Mstar’s hallmark for the last year.