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Thursday, March 18, 2004

 

Utah: UTOPIA FTTH update

Salt Lake City mayor undecided on UTOPIA, wants more time

Salt Lake City's mayor, Rocky Anderson, is undecided on whether the city should participate in UTOPIA (Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency), Utah's multi-city FTTH (fiber to the home) project. He wants the city to appoint a panel of independent experts to further study the proposal. Anderson also wants to put the issue to the voters.

Salt Lake City's city council is scheduled to vote on the project April 6 whether to pledge up to $4.1 million in future sales tax revenue to pay down construction bonds in the event fewer than 30% of city residents eventually sign up for the service.

The new law passed by the legislature governing UTOPIA requires all cities to decide by April 15 if they want to participate in UTOPIA. The governor has not yet signed the law; Anderson is asking the governor to veto the legislation.

Cedar City rejects UTOPIA proposal

Cedar City, Utah has become the second city to opt out of the multi-city UTOPIA FTTH (fiber to the home) project; ten others have pledged financial backing for the project.
Ed Kociela with the Spectrum reports:
"After one more donnybrook in the City Council Chambers, the council voted 3-2 Wednesday night to reject the UTOPIA proposal that would have brought high-speed, broadband telecommunications services to the city. The vote, with Councilmen Raymond Green, Dale Brinkerhoff and Joe Burgess voting against the proposal and Steve Wood and John Westwood in favor, was a climax to more than two turbulent years of debate and divisiveness, the likes of which the city has not seen in more than a decade."

Mark Havnes with the Salt Lake Tribune notes:
"The city remains on the UTOPIA board, but any cost to join in the future would be prohibitive now, said Mayor Gerald Sherratt, who favored the city's participation. 'We stubbed our toe on this for the future of the city,' said Sherratt."

Remaining city decisions

All cities have now held their public hearing on UTOPIA or been eliminated, but the four cities below still need to vote on UTOPIA participation (schedule courtesy of Joel Wright):

March 24: Riverton
April 6: Salt Lake and Roy
April 7: Payson

All cities must vote by April 15, or they're out of UTOPIA, due to restrictions imposed by SB 66, the new law restricting UTOPIA and other municipal broadband projects in Utah.

How many cities will ultimately back UTOPIA?

How many cities of the original 18 will eventually step up to the plate and pledge financial backing for their city's participation in the UTOPIA FTTH project? An article from several weeks ago quoted the project director as expecting 12 or 13.

Salt Lake City's support has been lukewarm in the past; even if the project's largest city backs out, the UTOPIA project will still be very large, extending FTTH service to hundreds of thousands of Utah residents.

As a result of the recent state laws passed to limit UTOPIA and similar municipal broadband projects, the counties surrounding UTOPIA cities are unable to participate, leaving some, such as Salt Lake County, feeling left out.

Postscript: Geoffrey Fattah with the Deseret Morning News has a good summary of the status of UTOPIA decisions in various cities.

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