U-CAN Meetings for September

U-CAN Meetings will be held this month in Brigham City and West Valley City. Due to the lengthy travel time involved in getting up to Brigham City, no meetings will be held this month in Utah or Davis Counties. The meeting in Brigham City will be held at the Brigham City Carnegie Library at 26 E Forest St and the West Valley meeting will be held at the Hunter Library at 4740 W 4100 S. As usual, all are encouraged to attend (even the resident mole from Frontier Communications).

UPDATE: In my haste to publish, I forgot to mention dates and times. WVC is on the 25th at 7PM and Brigham City is on the 27th at noon.

U-CAN Meetings for August

The UTOPIA Citizens Advisory network will hold meetings this month in Warner Quinlan in Orlando, and an as-of-yet undetermined location in or near Lindon. Layton’s meeting will be held on Saturday August 23rd at noon in the Davis County Central Branch Library at 155 N Wasatch Dr. Taylorsville’s meeting will be held on Thursday August 21st at 7PM in the Taylorsville Library at 4870 South 2700 West. I’m tentatively planning on Lindon’s meeting being on Tuesday August 19th at 7PM, but finding free meeting space in Utah County is proving to be a bit of a challenge. Any suggestions for a venue would be appreciated.

U-CAN Report: July 29 2008, Holladay

The third meeting of U-CAN was held last night in the Holladay Library and was a great discussion on how to add value to UTOPIA and make it more attractive to customers. In particular, content providers are eager to use the high bandwidth offered to offer up high-resolution live performances as well as more locally-produced content. Equipment makes are also chomping at the bit to find a provider interested in using the “cool toys” they produce to make use of the 100Mbit and 1Gbit pipes running into homes. It’s very encouraging to see these groups recognize the value of the network and want to work with service providers to encourage more widespread deployment and distribution.

  • Redman Movies rents equipment to the local film industry and sees all kind of possibilities for delivering the finished product via UTOPIA. Some ideas included simulcasting live sporting events, concerts or theatre performances, offering up HD content in native 1080p and even looking down the road at 3D television.
  • TenX Networks builds all kinds of network appliances including DVRs, home media servers, video surveillance and conferencing equipment and VoIP setups. Using a high-bandwidth network to up the video quality instead of trying to squeeze more and more out of compression algoriths seems like a winning bet with the kinds of things they want to offer.
  • We spent a lot of time talking about what incumbents are doing better. Comcast has done a particularly good job at offering local programming be it Sundance films, high school sports or LDS General Conference. Qwest can push ubiquity and bundling as key selling points. As regular commenter Capt. Video has often stated, UTOPIA needs to do more to offer products and services that differentiate themselves. Currently, video offerings are very… vanilla. I hope that will improve as new providers with different services jump on.
  • UTOPIA is apparently reworking the transport fees as part of the reorganization. This will probably result in terms much more amenable to service providers. In the meeting, it was brought up that one service provider who expressed interest was asked to pay $500K just to get a seat at the table. Sounds like that is gone. Service providers who haven’t taken another look at UTOPIA lately should consider doing so.
  • XMission has had to delay their VoIP offerings until this fall. Part of the problem is the reworking of the transport fees. The other part was that the original plan was to buy services from Veracity, a plan that fell through when Broadweave stepped into the picture. They have since decided to run all of the phone switching in-house to avoid these external dependencies. You should expect the product to be rock-solid as a result, especially given XMission’s high level of technical competence.
  • We also talked wireless again, except this time in the context of it being used as a temporary measure to provide service until fiber can be run all of the way. I don’t think this is the best option because of the problems it introduces. First, you can’t deliver triple-play on wireless because of the bandwidth limitations. Second, you run the risk of signing up a lot of low-end customers that never upgrade to the fiber product. Third, it conflicts with the core mission to build a world-class fiber infrastructure to sell to service providers. Fourth, it creates a poor perception problem that UTOPIA is abandoning its mission to build fiber in favor of the quick buck. There are good points in favor such as signing up customers on a low-end product to generate immediate revenues and interest, but I don’t think it’s a good long-term strategy. I still think wireless has a place as a complementary rather than a foundation infrastructure.

I’m still waiting for final confirmation, but I believe we should be having the next regular meeting of U-CAN at the Central Branch of the Davis County Library in Layton on August 23 at noon. More details to follow.

U-CAN Salt Lake County Interim Meeting: July 29th at 7PM

There will be an interim meeting of U-CAN for Salt Lake County residents on July 29th at 7PM. We will be meeting at the Holladay Library on Murray-Holladay Road just east of Highland Dr. While this is specifically for Salt Lake County residents, anyone is welcome to attend.

Next U-CAN Meeting: July 26 in Orem

The next meeting of the UTOPIA Citizen’s Advisory Network (U-CAN) will be held on Saturday July 26th at noon in the Commission for Economic Development Office (CEDO) conference room at 777 S State St in Orem. As usual, anyone interested in getting more information about UTOPIA, getting updates on the progress of the network or helping UTOPIA succeed is welcome to join.

I’m also working on something a little less formal on Tuesday July 29th in the evening for Salt Lake County as an interim meeting. Announcements will be made as I firm up a location.

Report From the Initial Meeting of U-CAN

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.
  • The new bond closed in late May as planned, so we may yet see construction by August. The UTOPIA website is actively soliciting new employees, a Business Sales Director and Teams Coordinator, as well as an RFP for asset management software and 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 ucan-announce-subscribe@freeutopia.org to get on the mailing list.