By Richard Burwash – The West Valley City Council voted last month to continue to work with seven other cities to expand the UTOPIA fiber network.
UTOPIA, which stands for the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency, currently has fiber optics to 16 percent of West Valley neighborhoods, and the new surge of expansion, together with a recent $16 million broadband award from the federal government, will expand the network to 85 percent of West Valley neighborhoods within the next few years.
“This is a huge win for Utah-based companies that want to supply their services to more homes and businesses,” said Robert Bryson, chief executive officer of Connected Lyfe. “This public infrastructure gives Utah entrepreneurs an opportunity to grow in this economy.”
UTOPIA’s fiber network operates much like the airport – the city governments build the infrastructure and then allow the private sector to use the network to compete to provide services.
“No one insists that Delta and Southwest Airlines build their own airport,” said Ben Bush, president of Voonami. “It makes good economic sense for government to build infrastructure that businesses can share. That’s exactly what UTOPIA is: sound public policy.”
XMission President Pete Ashdown said that large, out-of-state telecoms enjoy their current duopoly and do not want the increased competition that public fiber networks create.
“You have Comcast and Qwest heavily backing the Utah Taxpayer’s Association, who then acts as their front in attacking UTOPIA,” Ashdown said. “But it should be remembered that many Utah-based companies are able to survive and thrive because of this needed public infrastructure.”
One such entrepreneur is Ken Sutton, founder of Brigham.net.
“Asking me to build me own telecom line to every home in Utah is like asking a small delivery company to build their own turnpike to drive on,” Sutton said. “It makes no sense when we can use shared public infrastructure like UTOPIA.”
National technology experts, such as Google, are beginning to commend the open access paradigm, like UTOPIA, as the key to the Internet’s future.
“It is that openness, the ability that anyone can play that will drive the modern economy,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
The problem, Scmidt said, is there’s almost no competition for high-speed broadband connectivity in most markets in the United States. The Utah cities of UTOPIA are becoming a big exception to this because they are building an open fiber network where businesses of all sizes can compete.
“This new plan is good news for taxpayers because it begins to relieve cities of their 30-year tax obligation as the system grows to critical mass,” Bruce Carpenter, board chairman for the conglomerate of cities, said in a statement. “It is also good news for the many city residents and businesses that have long waited to have the fastest Internet in the country at a competitive, reasonable cost.”
To learn more about UTOPIA go to their web site.