Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "utopia"
Thane Packer, a Layton resident, attended a community meeting this fall to learn what he could about UTOPIA. Packer is like many others who consider his costs for Internet, TV, and phone as an important factor in whether or not to support UTOPIA. After attending the meeting, he considered the presentation and what he described as "some very heated, and some very biased opinions."
He then examined his existing triple play costs and shared his findings in a letter to the Standard Examiner. The rest of his letter is reproduced below (emphasis ours):
The total bundled bill for home phone, Internet, and a TV package was $273.63. That is $93.25 per month for the internet and home phone plus $180 for TV. The telephone service is fine but the Internet is frustrating. The signal fluctuates, is spotty and unreliable.
In Provo, because there is competition from a fiber optic network, this exact same package, which includes, total Internet, home phone and the TV package is available from a provider for only $99.94 a month.
This means that even if I didn’t use a fiber network like the one in Provo the competition price from the provider would save me $178.69 a month. That means that without the competition from a fiber system like UTOPIA, the provider stands to make, (from me) a total of $2,144.28 a year and in 25 years (the pay-off time for the current bond, for which we receive nothing) is over $53,000.
If I were able to switch to fiber system here in Layton a much better service would cost even less and I can certainly find a better place to use my $53,000.
So ask yourself this question. What is your current service costing you, how much extra are you paying, and what are you getting for it? For me the advantage of saving at least $178.69 a month and getting better service for it is obvious.
So please Layton, find a way to make this or something like it work for us. A very vocal minority should not be able deprive the rest of us from better cheaper service.
This is the final installment of a three part series, in which we examine the current state of the UTOPIA network, how it got there, and the choices it faces going forward. Part I can be read here and Part II here.
In Part I of this story, we laid out the difficult situation the open access UTOPIA network finds itself in and how it got there. Part II gave the broad outlines of Macquarie’s preliminary proposal for a public-private partnership to complete and operate the network. The numbers we deal with here are mostly from the Milestone One report, and assumed the participation of all 11 cities. It should be noted that since five of eleven UTOPIA cities opted out of proceeding to Milestone Two negotiations, the scope and scale of the project is subject to change. The basic structure of the potential deal is mostly set, however, allowing us to draw some reasonable conclusions about whether or not this deal is good for the citizens of the UTOPIA cities.
Let’s first turn to why Macquarie wants to make this investment. This would be the firm’s first large scale broadband network investment in the U.S., allowing it to get a foothold in a massive market that has a relatively underdeveloped fiber infrastructure. To offset network build and operation costs, it will also be guaranteed the revenue from the monthly utility fee, which my very rough calculations put between $18 and $20 million for the six cities opting in to Milestone Two (or between $30 and $33 million per year for all 11 cities) depending on whether the final fee ends up closer to $18 or $20 per month.
This is the second of a three part series, in which we examine the current state of the UTOPIA network, how it got there, and the choices it faces going forward. Part I can be read here and Part III here.
With the status quo untenable, no easy exit strategy, and political opposition mounting, UTOPIA appeared besieged in early 2013. Then along came Macquarie, which started studying the network and putting together a proposal for a partnership. The full Milestone 1 report from Macquarie is here, but in case you aren’t prepared to read 100 pages the broad outlines are as follows:
This is the first of a three part series, in which we examine the current state of the UTOPIA network, how it got there, and the choices it faces going forward.
At the end of a month of public meetings, hearings, and city council votes, just over half of the cities that make up UTOPIA have chosen to take the next step in their negotiations with the Macquarie Group. The massive Australian investment bank has put forward an offer to become a partner in the troubled network in exchange for a $300 million capital infusion to finish the long-stalled FTTH buildout.
Of the 11 member cities that have debt obligations for the network, six (comprising about 60% of all 163,000 addresses in the UTOPIA area) have voted to proceed to “Milestone 2,” which means digging into details and starting serious negotiations on the terms of a potential public-private partnership. Macquarie outlined their opening proposal in their Milestone 1 report in April.
Macquarie has about $145 billion in assets globally, and is no stranger to large scale infrastructure projects. Their Infrastructure and Real Assets division has stakes in Mexican real estate, Taiwanese broadband networks, Kenyan wind power, and a New Jersey toll bridge, to name just a few. For their UTOPIA investment, they would be working with Alcatel Lucent and Fujitsu, highly capable international IT companies. So there’s some serious corporate firepower across the negotiating table from the UTOPIA cities - and in this case, that’s not actually a bad thing.
You Are Cordially Invited: June 17th Discussion on Cable Companies, Monopolies, and Community Networks
On Tuesday June 17th, Chris will be participating in a conversation hosted by the Media Consortium as part of its Media Policy Reporting and Education Program (MPREP). You are invited to sit in on what is sure to be a spirited discussion on community networks and the lack of competition in the cable industry.
What: Community Fiber Networks: A Realistic Solution to Cable Monopoly?
When: Tuesday, June 17, 3pm ET/ 12 PT
Who: Joining Chris will be:
Ryan Radia, Associate Director for Technology Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He is critical of government-run or regulated projects in general, and specifically critical of community networks.
Wayne Pyle, City Manager and CEO of West Valley City, Utah's second largest municipality, and also chair of the board of UTOPIA, the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency, a community network serving 11 cities.
This is the first of several monthly briefings hosted by MPREP to discuss media policy issues. Everyone is welcome to participate. Register online for this discussion.
Jesse Harris at FreeUTOPIA recently published a piece correcting the many fantastic errors disseminated by the Utah Taxpayers Association. The group continues to spread lies to poison a proposal from Australian company Macquarie that could reinvigorate the ailing network. We spoke with Harris and Pete Ashdown, from Xmission, about the proposal in episode #85 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.
As can be expected, the arguments are nothing new, but the Utah Taxpayers Association still finds a way to take it to new extremes. Harris' post is worth the read because it offers truths to correct misinformation.
After correcting several points, Harris writes:
Really, their diatribe just goes on and on like that. A lot of it is basic fact-checking stuff that’s flat-out wrong, but they know those kinds of statements will rile people up and get them too angry to consider the real facts.
The best thing you can do right now is to make sure you show up at city council meetings, let your elected officials know you support the deal, and make sure you counter any of the flat-out false talking points the opposition will be trotting out time and time again. We’re really close to having this thing in the bag, and we can’t let up until the ink dries on the final agreement.
In a late-breaking story, he also says he has evidence that CenturyLink is behind this astroturf campaign. Not at surprising, but we should not sit idly by while powerful corporations try to undermine our republic.
Broadband is a topic of interest in several state legislative chambers this session. In a recent Government Technology article, Brian Heaton focused on five states where community broadband is particularly contentious. In some cases, legislators want to expand opportunities while others seek to limit local authority.
We introduced you to the Kansas anti-competition bill in January. The bill was pulled back this year but could be back next year. When the business community learned about the potential effects of SB 304, they expressed their dismay. From the article:
Eleven companies and trade organizations – including Google – signed a letter opposing SB 304 as a “job-killer” that restricts communications services expansion in the U.S.
Minnesota's leaders introduced legislation to expand broadband. Efforts include financial investment earmarked for infrastructure:
Senate File 2056 – referred to as the Border-to-Border Infrastructure Program – would take $100 million from the state's general fund to be applied to broadband projects. A companion bill in the House, HF 2615 was also introduced.
As we reported, there is bipartisan support for the bill in the House, but the Senate and Governor have not prioritized SF 2056.
New Hampshire's legislature wants to open up bonding authority for local communities that need help:
UPDATE: According to Pete Ashdown, the amendment has been pulled. Stay vigilant, these things rarely just go away.
We reported earlier this month that UTOPIA was once again facing legislative attack at the state level in the form of HB60. While the House has focused on other issues, the Utah Senate is launching its own attack. SB190 has also put UTOPIA in the crosshairs and events are happening quickly. Time to contact your elected officials, Utah!
According to Jesse Harris at FreeUTOPIA.org, SB190 as originally crafted, could have curtailed a pending deal between UTOPIA and Australian firm Macquierie. From Harris' February 19 story on the bill:
It appears the legislature is determined to chase off a $300M investment in our state’s broadband infrastructure to appease CenturyLink. Sen. John Valentine is running SB190 which has been very specifically crafted to prevent any UTOPIA city from using the same utility fee that Provo has to pay down the bonds. Moving to a utility fee to provide transparency on the cost of the UTOPIA bonds has been a key part of the Macquarie discussions so far, so it could very well put the deal in jeopardy.
Since its introduction, the bill was heard in the Senate Business and Labor committee. There was broad and fierce opposition and Sen. John Valentine, the sponsor of the bill, amended it. The changes made the bill palatable to Macquarie and it passed through committee to the Senate Floor on Feb. 24.
After the bill passed through the committee, Valentine introduced a floor amendment that will prevent new cities from joining the network. Harris now reports:
Kansas is not the only place where the cable and telecom lobbies are attacking publicly owned networks. Jesse Harris from FreeUtopia.org reports that State Rep. Curt Webb has introduced HB60, aimed at UTOPIA. From the story:
As the bill is currently written, UTOPIA wouldn’t just be prevented from building to people willing to pay for it. They could also be required to shut down any existing services and be prohibited from maintaining their backbone that links cities together. It would effectively be a death sentence on any network that isn’t entirely within member cities AND can connect to an exchange point to reach ISPs and the rest of the Internet.
FreeUtopia also reports that the bill does not affect cable, DSL, wireless, or any other technology. Harris writes:
Naturally, I had to follow the money and it explains a lot. Rep. Webb has taken contributions from CenturyLink and the Utah Rural Telecom Association.
As an observation, I take issue with the state's fiscal note on HB60. It reports that enactment of the bill "likely will not result in direct, measurable costs for local governments." The fiscal note also concludes that "enactment of this bill likely will not result in direct, measurable expenditures by Utah residents or businesses."
If this bill ends UTOPIA in certain areas, affected government, residential, and business customers will lose the competitive rates they now enjoy - direct and measurable! See Pete Ashdown's comment on Jesse's story - he runs XMission, a beloved local ISP that uses UTOPIA to connect to some subscribers.
This bill is another example of how cable and telephone company lobbyists are not just trying to shut down municipal networks, but any possible public private partnerships. This is emphatically not about tax dollars, as Jesse rightly notes: