Tag: "utopia"

Posted March 19, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

UTOPIA Fiber announced last week that it had completed network construction in Layton, Utah’s ninth largest city. The announcement comes just in time for increasing reliance on home broadband connections as more people shelter-in-place in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Already, UTOPIA has seen a rise in sign-ups for its regional open access fiber network, even setting a new daily record. While some of the growth can be attributed to Salt Lake City’s booming population, many new subscribers point to the need to work from home as the reason they decided to sign up.

Swelling Demand

On Tuesday, UTOPIA’s sales team signed on 88 new subscribers, nearly doubling the network’s previous one-day record of 48. According to UTOPIA, most new subscribers said that the ability to work remotely — especially considering Covid-19-related restrictions and closures — drove their decision to connect.

In addition to the current pandemic, some of this increase is tied to population growth in the region. Since the new year, UTOPIA’s monthly sign-ups have hovered around 600-700, exceeding the network’s typical average of 500 new subscribers per month.

As we reported earlier today, many networks are starting to see growth in home broadband usage as workplaces and schools close across the county in an attempt to contain the novel coronavirus. However, it’s too early to say exactly how the Covid-19 outbreak will impact broadband subscriptions and Internet traffic going forward.

Building a UTOPIA

The completion of UTOPIA’s fiber network in Layton, worth $23 million, will bring increased access to vital online education, remote work, and telehealth services to the city of 80,000 people. Approximately one third of Layton households are already connected to UTOPIA’s open access network. They can subscribe to one of 11 Internet service providers offering speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second.

“Fiber connectivity cements Layton City as a great place to live, work, and play,” shared Alex Jensen, Layton City Manager, in...

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Posted March 16, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

In an effort to keep families connected as schools and workplaces close in response to the novel coronavirus, many Internet service providers (ISPs) are taking steps to make their services more accessible and functional for those of us who are staying home for the foreseeable future.

Some policies are being officially encouraged by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) through Chairman Ajit Pai’s new Keep Americans Connected Pledge. By signing onto the pledge, providers agree to open Wi-Fi hotspots to the general public and to not disconnect or charge late fees to those struggling to pay bills due to the pandemic.

To ensure people have sufficient connectivity during the public health crisis, some ISPs are going beyond the pledge’s requirements by raising speeds, suspending data caps, and offering free Internet access to certain households.

While these efforts will not close all of the digital divides being exacerbated the pandemic, they are an important step toward mitigating the immediate impact on families and businesses.

Keep Americans Connected Pledge

FCC Chairman Pai announced the Keep Americans Connected Pledge last Friday, March 13. The pledge calls on ISPs to make Wi-Fi hotspots publicly accessible and to keep households and small businesses that are facing financial difficulties because of the pandemic connected over the next couple months.

Ajit Pai“As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and causes a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical, and civic life of our country, it is imperative that Americans stay connected,” said Pai in a press release [pdf] issued by the FCC. He also noted the importance of broadband access to enable remote work, online education, and telehealth appointments during periods of “social distancing.”

The press release, available below, shared the text of the pledge:

Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, [[Company Name]] pledges for the next 60 days to:

(1) not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to...

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Posted January 14, 2020 by lgonzalez

Idaho Falls has had publicly owned fiber within the community for years, but until recently, limited its use to dark fiber leases and public power purposes. Now, the community is working with UTOPIA Fiber to expand the network in order to serve all premises with Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH).

This week, General Manager of Idaho Falls Power and Fiber Bear Prairie and Chief Marketing Officer of UTOPIA Fiber Kim McKinley join Christopher to discuss the partnership. The project began with a pilot project but interest from the Idaho Falls community has proven that many people in the community want in on Internet connectivity from their municipal utility.

Our guests talk about the long process that led to their decision to work together and how they gauged interest from the Idaho Falls community. For both the city and for UTOPIA Fiber, this project is a new venture. Bear talks about some of the cost saving construction techniques the utility used, how they determined they wanted a partnership model, and the benefits the fiber network has garnered. Kim explains how, as an organization that aims to increase success for open access networks, UTOPIA Fiber was unsure what the future held in working with a community in Idaho, when the communities they serve had all been in Utah. For both partners, the project has opened doors.

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Posted November 19, 2019 by lgonzalez

UTOPIA Fiber will soon be branching out as they continue to forge partnerships with local communities in their region. In addition to expanding their own infrastructure, the organization is working across the state line to help Idaho Falls expand a municipal network.

Funding in Place

The Utah Infrastructure Agency (UIA) recently announced that it will provide $48 million to UTOPIA Fiber to facilitate expansion of the network. UIA is a separate entity, but the two operate as an integrat; leaders from both entities credit this approach for the growth of the network since 2009. According to a November 14th press release, UIA secured the funding with Lewis Young Robertson & Burningham, Inc. (Financial Advisor), KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc. (Senior Managing Underwriter), and Gilmore & Bell (Bond and Disclosure Council). 

Executive Director of UTOPIA Fiber Roger Timmerman said:

“We have the best partners in the business who have worked relentlessly over the past few months to get us to this point. The demand for municipally-owned fiber has skyrocketed and we are excited to be a leader in the industry. Over the past four years, UTOPIA Fiber has doubled the number of subscribers on its fiber network and has entered into partnerships with several additional communities.”

The newly acquired funding demonstrates a growing interest in open access fiber network infrastructure as investment. The UTOPIA Fiber network is currently an option for more than 100,000 premises, providing multiple options for households and businesses in a competitive environment. Other open access networks in locations around the U.S. are in the works, including publicly and privately owned infrastructure.

According to the press release, this is the fourth round of funding that UIA has closed on within the last year in order to meet demand and expand to additional communities.

Connecting an Expanding List of Communities

The town of Morgan City, which will be the 13th community in Utah to connect to the publicly owned open access network,...

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Posted November 15, 2019 by lgonzalez

Open access networks offer opportunities for competition and innovation that networks owned and operated by one entity can’t provide. We've written about open access networks owned, operated, and funded by public entities; now private investors are increasingly attracted to these competitive, fiber optic environments.

Changing Paradigm

Over time, American Internet access subscribers have become accustomed to the idea that options are limited because large, corporate Internet access providers have positioned themselves so as not to compete with one other. In areas where local communities have deployed open access models, such as in Ammon, Idaho, or in places with regional open access networks, like UTOPIA Fiber in Utah and the many Public Utility District networks (PUDs) in the state of Washington, those connecting to the network have benefitted from ISP choice and access to high-quality connectivity.

In Europe and Asia, open access models appear more regularly, but in the U.S., the open access arrangement has primarily been adopted by local governments offering wholesale service to ISPs. Often they do so as a way to comport with state law. In the past few years, however, private companies and investment firms have seen the potential of open access fiber optic infrastructure in the U.S. For example, SiFi Networks announced a project in Fullerton, California, earlier this year with plans to establish similar infrastructure projects in other communities.

We recently touched base with Kelly Ryan, CEO of iFiber Communications, an Internet service provider that operates via open access networks owned and operated by PUDs in Washington. We also talked with James Wagar, Managing Director of Thomas Capital Group, who has eyes on open access fiber optic network projects.

The Finance Piece

James notes that in recent years, privately funded open access networks...

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Posted October 29, 2019 by lgonzalez

Idaho Falls completed a publicly owned and operated a dark fiber network in 2010. Recently, city leaders unanimously decided to use the asset to offer citywide Internet access to the community. The vote followed a successful pilot project, commenced in March and completed this past September, which connected around 1,200 homes.

According to the East Idaho News:

Since that time, Idaho Falls Fiber officials have been gathering data and evaluating the costs and feasibility of expanding the high-speed fiber network through the rest of the Idaho Falls community.

...

“This kind of a public-private partnership is exciting. It allows the city to focus on infrastructure—something we excel at,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “And, it allows local Internet providers to offer their internet services to residents where they previously could not get this type of infrastructure to deliver a reliable high speed Internet product. It captures the best of both worlds.”

Idaho Falls worked with UTOPIA Fiber on the pilot project, which included four local Internet access providers offering services via the Idaho Falls publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure. The open access network will continue to expand over the next four years within the Idaho Falls Power service area. UTOPIA Fiber will continue to work with the city to expand the network.

“Designing a system like this is a complicated operational and engineering function,” said [General Manager Bear] Prairie. “That’s why the Council approved the agreement for us to partner with UTOPIA Fiber, a not-for profit entity like Idaho Falls Fiber that has the experience in operating successful networks similar to our design. We are excited to have successfully demonstrated that utilizing our existing power utility infrastructure to install fiber lines coupled with UTOPIA’s software that opens the network to local Internet providers to use has proven to be an economic success for our city.”

Residents and businesses and sign up and express interest...

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Posted October 7, 2019 by lgonzalez

Executive Director of UTOPIA Fiber Roger Timmerman has been paying attention to the issues that are on people's minds these days in Utah. He's discovered a trend — six of the top ten are issues can be positively impacted by publicly owned fiber optic Internet infrastructure. He tweeted about it:

UTOPIA Fiber has been working diligently to expand it's infrastructure in Orem; now more than 1,000 residents have the ability to connect to the open access infrastructure and choose from 11 Internet access companies. UTOPIA Fiber anticipates the deployment will be finished by the end of 2022.

Listen to our interview with Timmerman and Perry City Mayor Karen Cornin, recorded in 2016, about the network. They spoke with Christopher for episode 223 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

...

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Posted November 22, 2018 by lgonzalez

In the U.S., Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year. Families and friends come together to catch up, to eat tons of food, and to appreciate their good fortune. It's a time to count our blessings and laugh at a few of the characters common to every family. This year, we've imagined some of those characters at Thanksgiving Dinner in the world of telecom...

Momma Greenlight

by Lisa

Thanksgiving would be just another TV dinner without someone willing to wake up at 4 a.m. to put the bird in the oven, prep the potatoes, and bake the pie. Just like Mom, Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina, has gone above and beyond for the community. In addition to  providing an important economic development tool and creating an innovative program for folks who might struggle a little with Internet access bills, Wilson connected their neighbor Pinetops. In much the same vein, we know that if the next door neighbor was alone on Thanksgiving, Mom would invite them over for turkey and pumpkin pie.

Uncle Comcast

by Jess

He’s that uncle you don’t want to get stuck next to at the dinner table. Uncle Comcast will spend the entire time talking up his newest business venture while he ignores your aunt’s repeated request to pass the mashed potatoes. When you finally get a chance to talk he suddenly has to leave the table to take a call from one of his many lawyers. You’re a little worried he’s working on scheme to swindle grandma out of house and home in order to monopolize the inheritance

Cool Aunt Ammon

by Katie

thanksgiving-dinner.png Everyone in your family is always talking about...

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Posted November 13, 2018 by lgonzalez

When anti-muni groups have taken aim at publicly owned networks, they’ve often put UTOPIA in their crosshairs. The Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency has had times of struggle, but those days seem to be over. The network is expanding, subscribers are touting the benefits that come with the choice of an open access network, and other communities are reaching out to UTOPIA for advice. Days in UTOPIA country are sunny.

In this interview, Christopher speaks with Kimberly McKinley, UTOPIA’s Chief Marketing Officer, about the new and improved UTOPIA. Kimberly describes some of the ways the agency has adjusted their thinking from public entity to public entity with a competitive edge. She notes that marketing isn’t something that organizations such as public utilities think they need to worry about, but in the world of connectivity, strong marketing strategy pays off.

Along with lessons learned, Kimberly shares the triumphs that have turned UTOPIA into the leader in the region. UTOPIA’s footprint is growing, their services are expanding, and they’re influencing more communities. They’ve worked hard to reach this level of success and we see their trajectory to continue upward.

Check out more coverage of UTOPIA on MuniNetworks.org.

Read the transcript for the show.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 18 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can...

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Posted October 1, 2018 by lgonzalez

Skies have been brightening for the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency Network (UTOPIA). The trend is continuing for the network that has seen rough times in the past, testament to their fortitude, creativity, and ability to turn lemons into lemonade.

Finishing Layton

Most recently, UTOPIA announced that they had reached an agreement with the town of Layton, Utah, to finish deploying fiber infrastructure to residents and businesses. UTOPIA plans to have deployment in Layton, where approximately half of the city currently has access to the infrastructure, completed within 24 months.

According to Jesse Harris at Free UTOPIA!, expert at all things UTOPIA, this build out varies from deployment in the earlier days of construction in a few ways:

For starters, UIA [Utah Infrastructure Authority] can now issue bonds on its own authority. This means cities no longer have to use their bonding capacity to back them. The Layton plan also has the city backing the bonds using city franchise fees. If the subscriber numbers fall below what is required to pay the bond (which, to date, has not happened in a single UIA expansion area), the city pledges to cover the difference. On the flip side, if revenues exceed the bond payments (which has happened in most UIA expansion areas), the city gets to keep a cut of that for whatever they want. This could include paying off the original UTOPIA bonds, funding other city services, or anything else, really. It’s important to note that this revenue split option is only available to cities who assumed the original debt service.

Harris speculates that, due to the housing boom in the region, UTOPIA may face a difficult time recruiting the people they need to build the network. There are also almost two dozen potential UTOPIA communities engaged in feasibility studies. All these factors, in addition to the possibility of access to materials, may impact the ability for the network to expand at the rate they’d consider ideal.

10 Gigs for Residents

In January, we reported that UTOPIA announced a financial milestone — for the first time, revenue covered bond payments and also allowed a 2 percent dividend for most member communities. 

That same month,...

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