UTOPIA Fiber Completes $23.5 Million Network Build in Syracuse, Utah

UTOPIA Fiber has completed its fourth major broadband deployment of 2023, with the finished construction of a $23.5 million citywide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) build in Syracuse, Utah (est. pop. 33,000).

Network construction began November 30, 2021, and its first customer was connected on September 12, 2023. UTOPIA officials say the new Syracuse network passes 12,324 residential addresses, and has already reached a nearly 16% subscriber take rate in the city.

UTOPIA, shorthand for Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, is a collaboration between 11 Utah cities that joined together in 2004 to build, deploy and operate a fiber network that reaches every last home and business in its territory. Since 2009, UTOPIA’s expansion has been funded entirely by subscriber revenues.

Despite some early lawsuits by regional monopolies like Qwest (now Centurylink/Lumen) designed to kill the project before it could get a foothold, UTOPIA has not only survived but thrived, and its success has been transformative for large swaths of the Beehive State.

Syracuse – like many U.S. communities – had been consistently underserved by a duopoly of Comcast and Centurylink (Lumen). That lack of competition consistently results in sluggish, expensive, spotty broadband service, and substandard customer service. Now, locals have access to a variety of far more affordable options thanks to a menu of UTOPIA partner ISPs.

syracuse utah

The UTOPIA open access model allows numerous competitors to compete in layers over a centralized network, both lowering the cost of market entry, while driving down prices, improving availability, and addressing poor customer service via competition. In many markets, locals now have access to symmetrical gigabit connections for as little as $40-$50 a month.

The Syracuse, Utah announcement comes closely on the heels of the completion of another, $6 million deployment bringing affordable fiber access at speeds up to 100 Gbps (gigabit per second) to 2,656 residents in Cedar Hills, Utah. UTOPIA’s deployment in West Valley, completed last year, helped make it the biggest open access fiber network in the nation.

“It’s not just about providing Internet service; it’s about creating an equitable, competitive landscape,” UTOPIA CEO Roger Timmerman said in a statement. “Our open access model ensures that Syracuse residents and businesses have access to the same high-quality, diverse range of Internet services as their neighbors, bridging the digital divide, and ensuring fair prices.”

Syracuse Utah city seal

Like many community-owned and operated broadband initiatives, UTOPIA saw a massive surge in interest thanks to widespread frustration with substandard broadband during the COVID telecommuting and home education boom. It’s an interest that hasn’t slowed down, UTOPIA’s Kimberly McKinley tells ILSR.

“We are still hitting record highs,” she notes. “It is crazy to see how COVID educated the public on broadband and what was good and bad.”

UTOPIA officials say they’ve laid more than 568 miles miles of fiber in 2022, a significant uptick from the 455 miles it deployed in 2021. That cadence picked up notably in 2023, and the organization says it has now deployed more than 4,387 miles of fiber since its 2004 inception.
Inline image of neighborhood in Syracuse Utah courtesy of r. nial bradshaw, Attribution 2.0 Generic