Tag: "utah"

Posted October 26, 2022 by Karl Bode

Lehi City, Utah has broken ground on its new citywide fiber optic broadband network. The network, which city leaders say should take somewhere around three years to complete, will be built on the back of Lehi’s Utilities Department, part of a growing trend of U.S. utilities using an historic infusion of federal funding to expand affordable broadband connectivity.

The Lehi Fiber Network will operate as an open access network, meaning that multiple ISPs will be able to utilize the city’s new infrastructure, providing a much-needed dose of broadband competition to local residents and businesses alike. 

Five ISPs have already committed to providing service over the city-owned fiber, with the first customers expected to see service sometime in early 2023. Lehi’s partner ISPs have yet to specify tier pricing, but data consistently shows that such open access competition routinely drives down costs and improves service quality in regions where it’s adopted. 

After hiring Magellan to conduct a feasibility study, the city in 2020 approved financing the network with a bond it hopes will be fully paid off by broadband subscriber revenues. In 2021, the city announced it had chosen Strata Networks — the largest independent cooperative in Utah — to build and operate the network.

“We hope you’re as impressed with us as we are with you,” Bruce Todd, CEO of Strata Networks, said at the recent groundbreaking ceremony. “We’ve been involved in the broadband Internet industry for over 20 years. Covid changed how we looked at things, it became very important to get Internet to everyone and especially school children.”

With a population of 80,000 residents, city officials told ILSR that the total cost of the network is...

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Posted July 20, 2022 by Karl Bode

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) is slated to receive more than half a million dollars in Covid-relief funding from the state of Utah. The funding will help the NTUA expand fiber and wireless access to part of the 27,425 square mile Navajo Nation, improving access at Navajo anchor institutions and some of the nation’s 173,000 residents. 

The NTUA was created in 1959 by Navajo leaders frustrated by the fact that regional utilities had failed to provide uniform electricity services to the Navajo people. Still, over 60 years later and not only is the failure to electrify marginalized communities still a problem, the organization is leveraging its experience in that fight to expand broadband access as well. 

Project Timeline: 30 months

To help fix the problem, the Utah Broadband Center, run by the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, recently doled out $420,732 in broadband grants to the NTUA. Combined with $140,244 in matching funds from the NTUA, the project will bring a combination of fiber and wireless to 473 households currently unserved in Montezuma Creek, Utah. 

The grants were part of $10 million in Covid relief funding recently awarded by the Utah Broadband Center and made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act.

“From the time they sign the contract with the state, they have 30 months to complete the project,” Rebecca Dilg, Director of the Utah Broadband Center, told ILSR. “We are still working out the details of the contracts with all grant recipients.”

“We are pleased that there are substantial efforts being done by the Navajo Nation to bring high-speed Internet to the tribal lands in Utah and across the entire Navajo Nation,” Dilg added. 

Last December, the NTUA received an additional $1.8 million in funding to...

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Posted May 31, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

In an announcement at the Mountain Connect conference last week in Keystone, Colorado, municipally owned open-access network operator UTOPIA Fiber announced it has completed its build in West Valley City, Utah. It marks a major milestone, both for residents in the city (who have worked for years to take back control of their information infrastructure) and for the network as a whole (finishing work on one of the original partner cities in the project itself). 

Herculean Push Since 2020

Work offically began on West Valley City in 2004, Executive Director Roger Timmerman and Deputy Director and Chief Marketing Officer Kim McKinley shared at the press event, but expansion efforts have not been steady over the last 18 years. Instead, for a myriad of reasons, progress has been made in fits and starts, with a burst in 2009 but most development happening over the last two years. Local leaders have long recognized the value in completing the build, with residents clamoring for years.

The work comes as part of a five-year accelerated broadband construction plan, though 75 percent of the progress in West Valley City, according to Timmerman and McKinley, has happened just in the last two years. This has been in part because the network has been able to leverage its excellent financial position to be the financial backstop for commercial debt without having to go to the bond market or get fiscal pledges from member cities. This has enabled UTOPIA to move more quickly.

Today, aside from a few Homeowner's Associations (HOAs) and Multi-Dwelling Units (MDUs), West Valley City has been ubiquitously connected to the open access, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network, unlocking the potential of fast, affordable, symmetrical connections for all (see map below). 

Fierce Telecom reports Timmerman as saying that “this is a city where they did have cable and DSL options. They recognized those were insufficient for their community.” McKinley added at the event:

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Posted November 1, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

UTOPIA Fiber continues to grow and is now exporting its expertise into Bozeman, Montana – one of the fastest-growing cities of its size and often listed among the best places to live in the country.

Referred to by some as “Boz Angeles” because of the influx of Californians to the area, this Rocky Mountain city of 53,000, nestled in Gallatin Valley, is about to become even more attractive as a rising tech hub for millennials. At the Broadband Communities 2021 Summit last month, it was announced that Bozeman Fiber, a non-profit organization created by the city to expand high-speed Internet connectivity across the region, has partnered with Utah-based UTOPIA Fiber to build an open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network.

Bozeman Fiber has already built an open access fiber ring, serving city, county, and school facilities. It has also connected 200 commercial customers. The partnership with UTOPIA will allow Bozeman Fiber to extend the network across the city, passing 22,000 homes and businesses, with plans to extend further out into the more rural parts of Gallatin County down the road.

Network construction, which is estimated to cost $65 million, is slated to begin in the spring of 2022 and is expected to take three years to be completed.

“This is the first phase of a project that will cover the city and some areas of the county, and the intention is we’ll have future phases that reach further out into the county to hit more rural areas,” UTOPIA Fiber executive director Roger Timmerman said during the press conference announcing the partnership.

Bozeman Fiber CEO Greg Metzger added: “with this project, we’ll be able to attract and retain more businesses, and create jobs.”

County Provides Access to Bond Market

To finance the network construction, Bozeman Fiber has partnered with the Gallatin...

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Posted September 14, 2021 by Maren Machles

On this week’s episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, host Christopher Mitchell is joined by Mike Gailey (Mayor of Syracuse), Brody Bovero (City Manager for the City of Syracuse), and Scott Darington (City Manager for the City of Pleasant Grove) to talk about why they decided to work with UTOPIA to connect their communities in Utah. 

The group discusses the importance of setting their respective communities up with top-of-the-line broadband to help them succeed long into the future , whether that success means a spur in economic development or simply that every resident has access to education and entertainment for a higher standard of living. They talk about the demand in each of their communities for the services offered by UTOPIA, as well as their timelines to receive those services. 

This show is 26 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Read the transcript here

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

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or ...

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Posted June 14, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

Municipal networks in the United States have proven that when dollars are invested in publicly owned information infrastructure, they often return value back to the community several times over. This new fact sheet [pdf] highlights municipal broadband success stories from across the country and some of the many benefits the networks have brought to the communities they serve. 

These networks are directly accountable to the community and have proved themselves for more than 20 years in some cases, bringing lower prices to households than the large private providers. Municipal networks and partnerships account for 9 of the top 10 fastest broadband networks in the nation.

Download Snapshots of Municipal Broadband: A Much-Needed Part of America's Digital Ecosystem [pdf] here.

For timely updates, follow Christopher Mitchell or MuniNetworks on Twitter and sign up to get the Community Broadband weekly update.

Posted May 25, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Closing the homework gap has been a top priority for Federal Communications Commission (FCC) acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel. She has a long track record advocating for Wi-Fi-enabled school buses, lamenting viral images of school children completing homework in fast food parking lots, and making the case that no child should be left offline. At the onset of the pandemic, she pledged to use her influence at the agency to fight to increase the flexibility of the E-Rate program, saying “every option needs to be on the table.”

When the American Rescue Plan Act established the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) in March, a $7 billion program to connect students and library patrons to the Internet at off-campus locations, Rosenworcel had an opportunity to follow through on those promises. She could have seized the moment to steer the program in the direction of allowing schools and libraries to build, own, and operate their own school and community networks (what the federal government refers to as self-provisioned networks). Many schools serving areas with poorly connected students already do this, but without much help from the E-rate program.

But when the rules on how to spend the money were finalized on May 10th, the FCC’s Report and Order declared that schools and libraries could not use Connectivity Funds to build self-provisioned networks, but instead could only use the funds to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and connected devices, such as laptop computers and tablets. The one exception in which schools and libraries can use Connectivity Funds to build self-provisioned networks is in “areas where no service is available for purchase,” based on data self-reported by private ISPs. 

The Report and Order indicates the agency was not...

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Posted March 17, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

We've covered an array of communities that have met the connectivity challenges brought about by the pandemic by setting up gap networks to help bring neighborhoods, students, seniors, and frontline workers online in places like Arizona, California, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. A recent NBC story highlights efforts in Dallas, Texas and Utah to do the same, suggesting that we'll see more of these networks stood up in the near future.

Posted January 28, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

We've written a good deal about gap networks over the last year, in the form of neighborhood-based projects by local officials in partnerships with nonprofits as well as school district initiatives to get students connected as distance learning continues. 

The Murray School district, located a handful of miles south of Salt Lake City, has undergone a hurculean effort of its own to stand up a 44-tower wireless network using the 3.5-3.7 GHz spectrum to cover all 6,000 students in the district (13% of whom had no home connection previously. The network, free to students, went online in early January. Read more about how it unfolded here.

Posted January 28, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

2020 was a great year for Utah's UTOPIA network, with expansion in existing cities, more coming online, and people clamoring for service. The end of the year saw them pass a milestone, with 35,000 users on the network. Driven in part by the pandemic, but also the lure of fast, affordable Internet access, the network saw an increase in signups of 50%.

Listen to Episode 445 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to hear Christopher sit down with UTOPIA for more details.

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