UTOPIA Fiber announced this week that its municipal open access network is expanding its reach into two more Utah cities this year: Cedar Hills City in Utah County, and Santa Clara in Washington County.
Established in 2004, UTOPIA (which stands for Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency) is owned by a consortium of 11 cities. As CEO Roger Timmerman told Broadband World News last year, UTOPIA builds out fiber and allows private companies to come in and lease connectivity on its network.
In a press release about the latest expansion, Timmerman said: "We're really excited to continue our momentum in Utah County and to venture into southern Utah where Santa Clara will become the first all-fiber city in Washington County." Santa Clara ranks as the 58th most connected city in Utah, according to data from Broadband Now.
Cedar Hills and Santa Clara represent UTOPIA's 18th and 19th "fiber-to-the-home cities," according to the company's announcement, which states that UTOPIA has "virtually doubled" its customer base over the last few years. A company spokesperson put that subscriber number at 45,000, telling Broadband World News "we anticipate thousands more with the push into southern Utah, one of Utah's fastest-growing regions."
The growth of UTOPIA Fiber isn't well received by everyone – particularly incumbent service providers. In Santa Clara, ISPs TDS and InfoWest unsuccessfully lobbied the city council last year to vote against joining the municipal network, according to St. George News.
"The last few months, we met with TDS and InfoWest. We came away from those meetings that no clear timeline could be established" on expanding high-speed Internet in the area, council member Jarett Waite said during a Santa Clara city council meeting in November. "Our residents clearly stated that they want this now."
Following the vote, Rusty Cannon, president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, told St. George News that "city taxpayers could very well be on the hook for the project in the future" and that "UTOPIA has been a massive money-losing project for those original 11 cities."
UTOPIA, like other municipal networks, has dealt with pushback from its inception. The state of Utah has a law on the books technically banning such networks, but as Roger Timmerman told Broadband World News last year, "none of that garbage applies, because we're open access." While the law does not "outright ban municipal networks," he said, it makes it "so ridiculously prohibitive that no one would ever do it."
That hasn't deterred UTOPIA, which – in addition to its now 19 cities in Utah – also has partnerships outside the state in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Bozeman, Montana.
"Incumbent providers don't love competition, and UTOPIA Fiber brings competition to the marketplace," said a company spokesperson in an email to Broadband World News. "UTOPIA regularly shrugs off barbs from incumbents, and industry-funded 'taxpayer' groups trying to influence political decisions. But local leaders listen to their residents and businesses who are demanding better options. It's why UTOPIA Fiber keeps getting invited to the table and why we're now in southern Utah."
— Nicole Ferraro, site editor, Broadband World News; senior editor, global broadband coverage, Light Reading. Host of "The Divide" on the Light Reading Podcast.
Home page image source: Ivan Smuk/Alamy Stock Photo.