This morning, I went to the Utah Broadband Provider Summit at the Salt Lake City Public Library to see what the state will be doing in regards to broadband mapping in Utah. There was a lot of good discussion, but I left feeling like as smart as the people in charge may be, they’re not entirely equipped for the enormous task ahead of them.
I usually spend a lot of time checking my non-broadband opinions at the door. If anyone cares about my political leanings outside of telecommunications, they can find my other blog with great ease. In this case though, I’ve got more than a few choice words for the broadband stimulus and how it has failed to improve anything at all. In fact, I believe it has only made things worse.
The Round 2 broadband stimulus applicants are now posted on BroadbandUSA.gov and it looks like Utah applicants are few and far between this time. UTOPIA, UEN, and Ogden have all reapplied for funding and are joined by the Ute and Paiute tribes as well as a rehabilitation center in Salt Lake City. The number of applicants posted so far is half what it was in the first round, so it is entirely likely that Utah may be getting a larger slice of that pie.
Utah hasn’t been doing so well in receiving money under the broadband stimulus, but it looks like UEN just scored a winner. According to MuniWireless, UEN will get $13.4M under BTOP to run fiber to 130 elementary schools. So far, it doesn’t look like anyone else in Utah has gotten money under Round 1.
Peter Pratt at StimulatingBroadband.com tipped me off that Gov. Herbert has made his recommendations to NTIA and that all three of UTOPIA’s proposals are on the list. This could pump over $57M into the network at a time when capital for expansion is rather difficult to come by. The money could be ready to use as early as February. While this isn’t the final word on which projects will be approved, the NTIA is very likely to go along with the recommendations from the states. The feds didn’t give independent reviewers a lot of time to screen applications before sending them to the states.
The money will be set aside for rural and underserved areas of member cities, so expect to see the money flow into Lindon, Centerville, Payson, Brigham City, Perry, and any leftover portions of Tremonton first. Residents in these cities are very likely to see a sharply reduced cost for an SAA (most likely) or the return of the free install (quite unlikely). Overall, this will mean a big expansion of UTOPIA availability which can only help the bottom line. UTOPIA’s new management will likely have a targeted build plan meant to maximize new subscribers; previously, the building had been willy-nilly.
UTOPIA isn’t the only winner in Herbert’s recommendations. UEN and the UTA picked up endorsements as did several projects from the Navajo Nation. Emery Telecom also got the nod for its three proposals to bring FTTP to its service areas in rural Utah, no doubt to unify its separate CATV and phone systems as part of the upgrade. (Seriously, guys, kudos on being one of the few rural ILECs doing something so ambitious.) There’s also an application to build a community WiFi cloud in Washington County.
From reviewing the list of stimulus applicants, you’d think Qwest decided not to partake in the feeding frenzy. Think again. Instead of applying directly, Qwest chose to allow an intermediary to make the application, an intermediary that would then spend the money on Qwest infrastructure and services. I’m referring to the applications from the University of Utah.
You may think hey, what does the U plan to do with Qwest? The reality is that the application from the university was on behalf of UEN. UEN contracts with several companies to build and operate 10GbE and 1GbE links to educational facilities, but the lion’s share of the money goes to Qwest. Should the application get approval, it is nothing more than a hand-out to Qwest to build a network with taxpayer dollars and charge their normal exorbitant rates for service with no real strings attached.
I hope that whoever is reviewing NTIA applications at the state level sees right through this ruse.