We've all known that the situation at Mstar was dire, but who would have guessed it was this bad? Mstar is reportedly down to a single network engineer to handle all of their operations and technical support issues. The anonymous poster also claims that most of the customer service reps aren't trained to do any kind of basic troubleshooting, leaving that responsibility up to him to tackle. It sounds like the turmoil continues.
High placed sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, have confirmed that Veracity has pulled out of the merger with Broadweave and that Sorenson Capital may have withdrawn financial backing as a result. The 60-day delay cited by Broadweave in the papers is rumored to be buying time to find new backers. The loss of Veracity combined with the iProvo NOC employees who have left means that video experience is almost non-existent and staff resources will be stretched dangerously thin. This may account for anonymous commenters who have reported issues reaching customer service over the last several days. When asked about these details, Provo City employees involved in the deal were unaware of the failure of the merger.
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 email@example.com to get on the mailing list.
In an unbelievable move, around 200 Mstar customers on iProvo have been without phone service since Friday after New Global Telecom, the VoIP provider that Mstar uses, cut them off. NGT claims that Mstar is behind on their payments for iProvo customers and that UTOPIA customers are not affected. John Hansen, Mstar's interim president, says the claims of non-payment are bunk and blames the problem on iProvo customer service staff.
Broadweave managed to do an emergency transition of most of the affected customers to their network but it is still struggling with the last 200 or so. Phone customers are still able to receive calls and place 911 calls, according to NGT. Customer experiences have been mixed with some reports that the customer service lines are busy and others saying that they've been able to get through. For some odd reason, Broadweave's PR consultant has stated that they're waiting for the affected customers to call them to get the issue sorted out instead of aggressively trying to contact those customers.
While this problem isn't Broadweave's creation, it's their baby now. Mstar doesn't have much incentive to make sure the transition is a smooth one and can easily put egg on Broadweave's face by dropping a problem in their lap that they don't quickly resolve. It makes you wonder how many customers will unbundle services even if it costs more money to do so.
NGT also claimed in their statements that Mstar would be selling off the phone customers on UTOPIA to another provider. Obviously, UTOPIA can't comment one way or the other and there's nothing from Mstar to confirm or deny that claim. Any insiders want to clarify this in the comments?