Tag: "utah"

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 October 3, 2019 by lgonzalez

In Kaysville, Utah, the city is considering establishing a municipal fiber optic utility in the community of approximately 32,000 people. City leaders are considering the utility fee model, to enhance competition, inspire better rates, and encourage innovation in the community.

A Recurring Issue

The Salt Lake Tribune recently reviewed the plan in Kaysville, where the city council will soon vote whether or not to approve a $26 million bond in order to deploy a citywide publicly owned fiber optic network. Community leaders have determined that a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network is essential infrastructure for Kaysville. Comcast and CenturyLink serve most of Kaysville; some areas near the city must rely on satellite Internet access. City leaders want to lower prices and improve services by creating an environment for increased competition.

“As I was doing door-to-door campaigning, this was an issue that came up again and again and again,” said Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt, who’s a proponent of the city’s plan to create a fiber optic network. “We need to look down the road and plan for the future and make sure that we have the critical infrastructure in our community.”

The city has reviewed possible options and, after "one of the most vetted and open projects that we’ve worked on," decided that the utility model is best suited for Kaysville, said Councilwoman Michelle Barber.

“That’s what took 18 months of looking at was finding out that there are options, there are a lot of different options and ways to go about this," [Barber] said. “And after evaluating them all, going through a really long process, seeing feasibility, financial models and what’s the best fit, we found this one which we believe to be the best fit for Kaysville.” 

The Utility Fee Model

Kaysville plans to deploy an open access model, which will allow multiple Internet access companies to offer services through the fiber optic infrastructure owned by the community. They will use a utility fee to finance and maintain the infrastructure.

As part of the plan, private companies would provide basic Internet service to all residents and businesses, though any...

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Posted July 25, 2019 by htrostle

American Fork, Utah, wants to build an open access fiber network to all homes and businesses in the community of 26,000 people. The Daily Herald reports that the city council will vote on the proposed plan on August 13, 2019, and then consider a $25 million bond for the project later in the fall.

This is the second attempt at a community owned network for the north central city after changes in state law thwarted their first undertaking in 2001. Utah's state law, passed around the same time of their first attempt, limits municipalities by only allowing them to offer wholesale connectivity. American Fork’s new open access plan will satisfy a major need for the community and comport with state law.

Why Try Again?

Mayor Brad Frost told the Daily Herald that about 96 percent of residents have Internet access, but he highlighted that this is not enough. The city’s market study and feasibility report released in June 2019 presents stark numbers and show that, while Internet access may reach most of the community, the problems many residents and businesses encounter suggest that fewer people have "broadband" as defined by the FCC (25 Mbps download / 3 Mbps upload):

  • 87 percent agree that the City should help facilitate better Internet access
  • 52 percent of respondents report that they have trouble using common Internet services
  • 47 percent of respondents indicate that availability of broadband Internet is affecting where they choose to live
  • 93 percent of business respondents want better Internet access
  • 100 percent of business respondents say the city government should help facilitate...
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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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Posted August 13, 2018 by Hannah Rank

Spanish Fork, Utah, was recently highlighted in a promotional video touting the successes of its municipal Internet service. The video, produced by the trade group Internet Association, is all about economic development and growth -- something this community of nearly 40,000 has seen since the municipality introduced the service back in 2001, and then subsequently upgraded to fiber.

As the mayor of Spanish Fork notes in the video, before the municipality established its own network, incumbent providers wouldn’t invest in broadband infrastructure in the city. Inadequate Internet access would have pushed out businesses in the community. A number of small business owners are featured in the video, and all emphasize how integral high-speed Internet has been not just for orders, but social media promotions.

The video also features U.S. Senator from Utah Mike Lee, who spoke to the business owners in the area. He concluded that an open Internet needs to be supported, not suppressed, by lawmakers such as himself:

“Our biggest most important task as lawmakers is don’t wreck the Internet, don’t interfere with the Internet," Lee said. "Leave it alone, allow it to be what it has been, what has made it such a wonderful thing, which is a free marketplace.” 

Check out the video here:

We spoke to the network director for the municipal, John Bowcut, back in 2015. At the time of the interview, Bowcut said that the ISP had a take rate of about 80 percent, mainly because they were able to keep prices much lower than the incumbent Comcast. You can check out Christopher’s entire interview with Bowcut here.

Posted January 4, 2018 by lgonzalez

Things have been looking up for the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency’s fiber optic network (UTOPIA) in recent years and in December network officials reported they’ve reached a significant financial milestone. For the first time since the open access network began operations in 2003, revenue will cover bond payments and will provide a 2 percent dividend to most of the member communities.

Despite The Limitations

In keeping with state restrictions, UTOPIA can only provide wholesale services via their fiber infrastructure. Ten ISPs offer residential services on the network, which establishes ample competition and all its benefits for subscribers, including lower prices, better customer service, and the ability to switch providers. Businesses can choose from 25 ISPs.

The wholesale-only model, however, significantly reduces the revenue communities can expect from their investment, which was the case with UTOPIA. The eleven member cities bonded approximately $185 million, but revenue limits due to the restriction, some early management decisions, and general apprehension from member communities, created political controversy. At one point, member communities considered selling out to Australian investment firm Macquarie.

Fortitude Paying Off

In 2011, eight of the member communities created the Utopia Infrastructure Agency (UIA) in order to spur more network expansion. UIA collaborates with UTOPIA as a separate entity; its purpose is to deploy the network in more locations and connect more premises and has issued the dividend to its member communities.

Communities in the region chose to stick with their investment, however, and gradually, as Jesse Harris from FreeUTOPIA noted in 2016, negative public opinion turned around. Things for the eleven member communities were on an upward trajectory and soon neighboring...

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Posted September 27, 2017 by lgonzalez

A recent proposal being considered by the FCC that has raised the loudest outcry has been the status of mobile broadband in rural areas. Now that Verizon is discontinuing rural subscriber accounts, the FCC will be able to see those concerns come to life.

Dear John...

The company has decided to cut service to scores of customers in 13 states because those subscribers have used so many roaming charges, Verizon says it isn’t profitable for the company. Service will end for affected subscribers after October 17th.

Verizon claims customers who use data while roaming via other providers’ networks create roaming costs that are higher than what the customers pay for services. In rural communities, often mobile wireless is the best (albeit poor) or only option for Internet access, so subscribers use their phones to go online.

Subscribers are from rural areas in Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin.

In a letter sent to customers scheduled to be cut off, Verizon offered no option, such as paying more for more data or switching to a higher cost plan. Many of the people affected were enrolled in unlimited data plans:

“During a recent review of customer accounts, we discovered you are using a significant amount of data while roaming off the Verizon Wireless network. While we appreciate you choosing Verizon, after October 17th, 2017, we will no longer offer service for the numbers listed above since your primary place of use is outside the Verizon service area.”

Affecting Customers And Local Carriers

Apparently, Verizon’s LTE in Rural America (LRA) program, which creates partnerships with 21 other carriers, is the culprit. The agreements it has with the other carriers through the program allows Verizon subscribers to use those networks when they use roaming data, but Verizon must pay the carriers’ fees. Verizon has confirmed that they will disconnect 8,500 rural customers who already have little options for connectivity.

Philip Dampier at Stop The Cap! writes:

Verizon has leased out LTE spectrum covering 225,000 square miles in 169 rural counties in 15 different states. The company said more than 1,000 LTE cell sites have been...

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Posted June 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

For the second week in row, our staff has felt compelled to address a misleading report about municipal networks. In order to correct the errors and incorrect assumptions in yet another anti-muni publication, we’ve worked with Next Century Cities to publish Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: Yoo Discredits U Penn, Not Municipal Networks.

Skewed Data = Skewed Results

Professor Christopher S. Yoo and Timothy Pfenninger from the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition (CTIC) at the University of Pennsylvania Law School recently released "Municipal Fiber in the United States: An Empirical Assessment of Financial Performance." The report attempts to analyze the financial future of several citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) municipal networks in the U.S. by applying a Net Present Value (NPV) calculation approach. They applied their method to some well-known networks, including Chattanooga's EPB Fiber Optics; Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina; and Lafayette, Louisiana's LUS Fiber. Unfortunately, their initial data was flawed and incomplete, which yielded a report fraught with credibility issues.

So Many Problems 

In addition to compromising data validity, the authors of the study didn’t consider the wider context of municipal networks, which goes beyond the purpose of NPV, which is determining the promise of a financial investment.

Some of the more expansive problems with this report (from our Executive Summary):

  • They erred in claiming Wilson, Lafayette, and Chattanooga have balloon payments at the end of the term. They have corrected that error in a press release. Other errors, such as confusing the technologies used by at least two networks, are less important but decrease the study’s credibility.
  • Several of the cities dispute the accuracy of the numbers used in the calculations for their communities.
  • The Net Present Value calculation is inappropriate in this context for...
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