Legislation Alert: HB273

Some years, muni telecom gets a break. This year isn’t one of them. Rep. Keith Grover has introduced HB273 which would effectively ban Provo from using utility surcharges as a way to cover iProvo debt payment shortfalls. It’s unclear as to if this would have any effect on UTOPIA, but the bill does include some vague language concerning charging “just and reasonable” rates. Depending on how the legislation is implemented, this could prevent UTOPIA from differentiating wholesale prices depending on volume or require that they match rates with other networks.

Any way you slice it, this is a bill very explicitly targeted at removing operational flexibility from municipal networks. I highly recommend you contact Rep. Grover to urge him to reconsider.

The long knives come out: Tribune articles on UTOPIA

Bad news sells, and the Tribune seems to think that business is good. Over the weekend, they published a long series of articles on UTOPIA that follow the all-too-standard pattern of raking the network over the coals with many of the same rehashed arguments from years past. Four of the nine articles make reference to network debt in their headlines (often spuriously), and eight of them use negative references there. Despite the overly negative tone of the coverage (no doubt fueled by the opinions of the editorial staff), there’s a few pieces of useful and interesting information to be gleaned (not to mention corrections to be made). Continue reading

The Alternate Reality of the Standard-Examiner

The Standard-Examiner published an anti-UTOPIA editorial yesterday that, quite frankly, makes me wonder if some sort of illicit substances are in use by their editorial board. Granted, these kinds of opinion pieces are not uncommon, but this one sets a new “standard” in incoherence and inaccuracy. Allow me to “examine” the various ways in which their editorial could only make sense in a conveniently parallel dimension.

Fife wondered why suggested prices quoted by Beehive Broadband are so pricey…

Actually, $45 per month for service is actually not too shabby. The only plan that Comcast offers near that price is both a temporary 6-month introductory offer and significantly less speed. It also undercuts Beehive’s own pricing on their own FTTH network ($60/mo and up to a $895 install) for what I can assume is less speed (20Mbps both ways). On UTOPIA, they charge either $45 per month (half of which disappears in about 20 years) or $22 per month with a $2750 install cost. In a pure apples-to-apples comparison, UTOPIA is offering a very competitive price, especially when you compare like speeds (or as like as you can get) from Comcast and CenturyLink. But they deny this reality as well:

If the Beehive Broadband deal is approved, customers will still have to pay Internet prices that frankly, are not very much different from prices that can be found in the private sector.

Oh really? Comcast charges around $60/mo for 25Mbps down, 4Mbps up. CenturyLink will do 40Mbps down, 5Mbps up for the same price. XMission and InfoWest are happy to sell you a 50Mbps bi-directional connection for that much, and $23 of that monthly cost vanishes when you’ve paid off the connection.

The fact-free piece doesn’t end there, though. Consider this gem:

While elected officials in UTOPIA-yoked cities are for the most part, too stubborn to admit they made a mistake hooking up with the public/private group…

Wait, what? Cities didn’t join UTOPIA, cities created UTOPIA. It’s their baby. As much as choice elected officials like to disown it for cheap political points, that’s about as asinine as insisting that the fire department is a separate entity.

While it’s pretty obvious that the editorial board is already failing math and civics, they decide to flunk out on history as well.

And again, as mentioned, while UTOPIA may provide quality services, the prices are still similar to what could have been garnered without cities having shelled out millions in dollars.

That’s another thing that just isn’t so. Brigham City tried for years to get Comcast and Qwest to deploy more broadband with no success. Lindon even offered to pay them for it and was declined. Tremonton residents could barely get 1.5Mbps DSL, a connection that would have been top-notch more than a decade ago. Once they decided to join UTOPIA, higher-end services magically became feasible in their town and the incumbents got busy digging. Had they not joined, what would they have right now?

I don’t necessarily have an issue with someone opposing UTOPIA. I do, however, have a problem with people who have zero grasp of the facts and try to do so. It appears that the editorial board of the Standard-Examiner is such an uninformed group, although to such a degree as to have me question if they are perhaps in the wrong line of work. We expect our journalists to dig in a find facts, a task to which they appear to be ill-suited.

UTOPIA Joins the Exclusive 1Gbps Club

Today UTOPIA announced that they will be offering 1Gbps connections to every home they pass. Word on the street is that getting a connection that’s faster than your hard drive (!) should run in the neighborhood of $330-ish per month if you’re leasing the connection. Right now, only a handful of providers in the country offer such blistering speeds to residential customers.

Some other fun facts from the media day:

  • UTOPIA’s highest bandwidth customer consumes 20Gbps worth.
  • Centerville is completely built out. If you live in Centerville, you can get service right now. About 500 residents have already chosen to do so, just over 10% of total households.
  • Homes with multiple set-top boxes will have the greatest need for 1Gbps connections. Currently, 4-5 of them can saturate a 100Mbps connection.
  • You could, in theory, get 10Gbps at your home, but UTOPIA isn’t all that comfortable leaving $10K worth of electronics sitting in your house.

You can check out pictures of the event on Google+ or Facebook.

Here’s UTOPIA’s full press release: Continue reading

Press Release: UTOPIA supports DISH Network’s Efforts to Provide Consumer Choice


Media Contacts:

Robyn Geist 801-364-0088 ext. 106 or 801-680-1135

Brian Wilkinson 801-364-0088 ext. 102 or 801-673-5615



UTOPIA Supports DISH Network’s Efforts to Provide Consumer Choice


DISH Network faces lawsuit from TV networks over its newest technology:

a user-enabled commercial skipping feature called AutoHop


Salt Lake City (June 1, 2012) – UTOPIA, the open-access fiber-optic network formed by 16 Utah cities to provide critical advanced communications infrastructure to their residents, is announcing strong support for one of its newest services providers, DISH Network, and its efforts to promote consumer choice in the face of a lawsuit from three of the major television networks over DISH’s ad-skipping AutoHop technology.

“Among one of the many reasons we partnered with DISH Network as a service provider on the UTOPIA network is because they are at the forefront of providing unique entertainment options and more choice to consumers,” said Todd Marriott, Executive Director of UTOPIA. “DISH Network recognizes that consumers desire the options to be able to view the content they want, when they want it, and, most importantly, how they want it, particularly when they have already paid for it. Competition and consumer choice were fundamental reasons UTOPIA was formed as an open access network”

DISH’s AutoHop technology allows its customers to enable a feature that automatically skips over commercials in primetime TV programming from the major networks that has been recorded on consumers’ DVRs. It does not skip over ads when subscribers are watching the programming live.

# # #



The Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, more commonly known as UTOPIA, consists of a group of 16 Utah cities that joined together to form a state-of-the-art fiber-optic network and provide critical advanced communications infrastructure to their residents. The network offers fiber-to-the-premises technology allowing for faster services that are uninterrupted by copper wiring or shared connections with neighbors. Its open access model fosters competition among private sector service providers who offer Internet, ubee routers, television, telephone and other services, giving customers the freedom to choose their own service providers, the best prices and the best service.

For more information on UTOPIA including member cities and business and residential service providers, visit www.utopianet.org.

UTOPIA Proving a Popular Scapegoat for City Revenue Issues

A lot of cities have been talking property tax hikes lately, and the most certain thing about all of the proposals is that elected officials are going to look for someone or something to blame. In UTOPIA member cities, blaming the fiber network has become the easy go-to solution, especially since so many mayors and city council members weren’t involved in the original decision. The problem, however, is that this blame is completely paving over a deeper problem of city tax structure that’s boring, doesn’t fit the anti-UTOPIA narrative, and is a much larger problem for city budgets. Let’s take the examples of West Valley City, Orem, and Taylorsville, the latter of which is not a UTOPIA member city. In all three cases, they’ve called for large (as a percentage) property tax increases to make up for lagging sales tax revenues. So if UTOPIA is the cause of property tax increases, why would a non-member city need to more-or-less do the same thing?

Continue reading

Return of the lease? UTOPIA offers a new connection option

In a flashback of the old model, UTOPIA is offering up a new connection option very similar to the leasing option they started with. Customers who have the fiber in front of their homes can opt to enter into a 2-year agreement at $30/mo to cover the cost of installation. At the expiration of the two-year period, they can either go month-to-month or choose to re-up the contract. The upside is that there’s a shorter commitment term, but the downside is that the infrastructure charge won’t go away like it does when you buy it out. Customers who opted to purchase the connection can switch to the leased model and have their down payment applied towards the monthly charges.

To be honest, I don’t see that this is much of an advantage for users since you’re not saving any money and will end up paying in perpetuity for the connection. Since it’s only available to areas where the fiber is already on the curb, it also won’t do anything to get the network extended into your neighborhood either. It could, however, be a good way to sign up fence-sitters in existing service areas.

What do you think? Would you go for the short-term lease or buy out the connection?

UPDATE: Just to clarify, the conversion of a down payment on the connection into lease payments is only if you haven’t purchased the connection outright. If you’ve already bought the connection or have payments going towards doing so, this will still continue and you’ll still own the line. The line ownership option isn’t going anywhere.

DISH Network on UTOPIA: What are the implications?

It’s a huge thing for UTOPIA to score a major national provider like DISH Network.

First, let’s consider that DISH already has a lot of customers in UTOPIA areas. They could immediately start marketing both data and voice service to those subscribers. Given that they can cross-subsidize using revenues from other markets, using the MStar tactic of aggressive marketing would be sustainable. They also have installation and customer service staff in place to handle that influx.

That cross-subsidy can also help them pick up new customers on a triple-play package. One of the main barriers to signing up new customers has been the acquisition cost. DISH could potentially opt to subsidize or entirely eat the install cost as a way of speeding up deployment, something they have the cash to do. They can also double up their marketing to hit up potential new customers while marketing to existing ones.

This may also prompt other operators to take a closer look at UTOPIA as a means of delivering services. While UTOPIA has had no problems picking up a plethora of commercial operators, the residential options have remained somewhat limited. The addition of a large national provider will no doubt attract attention from other providers, especially as the network expands and creates a greater opportunity to grab new customers. It was rumored that Cox Communications, the largest privately-held cable company in the country, was interested in joining UTOPIA if they thought they could get at least 50,000 new customers out of it. (FWIW, Cox operates in Las Vegas where UTOPIA’s fiber backbone terminates.) Such additions would make take rates in excess of 50% not just feasible, but assumed.

In all, I think this deal has major implications for changing the competitive landscape. I’m looking forward to seeing what DISH will do.

UTOPIA Lands DISH Network

In a huge move, UTOPIA has just announced that national satellite provider DISH Network is now a provider on the network. Scoring an A-list provider in the telecom space is a major coup and could very well prompt other established operators to sign up as providers. Packages through DISH will include Blockbuster streaming and their own brand of TV Everywhere, Sling, that will allow you to watch programs on your smartphone or tablet.

See below for the full press release. Continue reading