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Municipal Broadband Opposition Campaign in Bountiful, Utah Fails
Bountiful, Utah officials and community broadband advocates are breathing a sigh of relief as the Utah Taxpayers Association’s “Gather Utah” petition to stop the city from building an open-access network in partnership with UTOPIA Fiber fell short.
This past Friday was the deadline for “Gather Utah” to collect enough signatures for a petition that would have forced a citywide vote on the $48 million in revenue bonds authorized in May by city councilors to fund network construction.
In a press statement, City Manager Gary Hill said: “hired signature gatherers ultimately failed to collect enough signatures from registered voters to advance the opposition campaign.”
Bountiful Mayor Kendalyn Harris added:
“Bountiful is a unique city. Our residents started this process. They organized a ‘Fiber for Bountiful’ campaign that led to a thorough consideration of many options. We now look forward to offering a vital service to residents and businesses in an increasingly digital world.”
Now, after three years of study and more than two dozen public meetings, Bountiful Fiber will begin construction next month. As we previously reported, the city-owned fiber optic network will provide gigabit speeds to residents and businesses who subscribe for service.
Earlier this month American Association for Public Broadband (AAPB) President Gigi Sohn wrote an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune about how the “Gather Utah” campaign (backed by the cable industry) tried to derail the city’s project. After news of the petition failure, Sohn said:
“The people of Bountiful City have spoken loud and clear: they want the City to work with UTOPIA Fiber to build a universal, affordable and robust broadband network for all of their residents, and they want that network now. They rejected the cable industry-backed dark money campaign that sought to take it away from them or at a minimum, cause an unwarranted and expensive delay. The City Council never wavered from its initial unanimous support for a community-owned network.”
Sohn went on to say that AAPB’s counter-offensive to the “Gather Utah'' disinformation campaign speaks to the organization’s mission moving forward:
“The AAPB is proud to have been one of the voices alerting the people of Bountiful City, and the country, about the dirty tricks that seek to undermine local communities’ freedom to choose what broadband network works best for its residents. The organization will continue to advocate for the community broadband model, and for communities’ freedom of choice.”
The victory comes on the heels of the release of a new documentary “Rocketeers” that tells the story of UTOPIA Fiber. Watch the short documentary below:
Header image of Bountiful City Hall courtesy of the League of Women Voters Utah