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What is UTOPIA?
UTOPIA (Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency) is a state-of-the-art fiber optic network owned by its member communities and built to benefit residents and businesses. UTOPIA’s fiber optic infrastructure carries information at the speed of light. We operate on an open access model which means we own and manage the infrastructure, but lease the lines to private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who then deliver services to subscribers. There are currently 11 pledging cities on the network.
Current UTOPIA Build-Out
2018 Build Out
Why isn’t Orem built out?
We base our builds out on demand and cost. If you feel like you have a high enough demand and an area you would like us to look at within our member cities, let us know. If we get enough demand, we will consider building there; however, there are a lot of factors to consider when deciding to complete an infrastructure in certain areas.
First and foremost, we have to install the backbone of our network. The cost requirements of implementing new fiber optic lines are expensive and it takes a bit of time. We have to install all of our equipment into the streets before we even think about running a fiber line into a home. In some places our equipment is already installed, so running our fiber lines would take less time and money. Some places cost more to build due to the ground that some structures are built on. For example, around the Wasatch Mountain foothills and benches, the ground is a lot rockier and has more of a solid substance than around the valley where it’s mostly dirt. Digging through rock obviously costs more because it takes more time, energy and equipment.
Every mile of our network has to be planned; we can’t just dig anywhere anytime we want. UTOPIA Fiber works alongside city leaders to review infrastructure including roads, underground and overhead utility paths, permits and more. Our engineers and maps departments work extremely hard to figure out where we can build based on existing utility poles and water, gas and electricity lines. This is a joint effort. Not only do we have to be prepared, but our member cities have to be ready to design and build a brand new network that can support thousands of miles of fiber optic cables. UTOPIA is strategizing together with our member cities to build out the network out as soon as possible in the City of Orem and all our member cities.
What is UIA?
The Utah Infrastructure Agency (UIA) is an inter-local agency formed in June 2010 with 9 of the 11 original UTOPIA pledging member cities. The UIA was formed as a funding mechanism to continue out the growth of the network.
Why is Orem involved in the UTOPIA Fiber project?
Orem joined UTOPIA because they understood the importance of broadband and how the demand would grow exponentially in the years to come. They also realized how this technology could benefit their community. In 2002, Orem along with 10 other Utah cities formed into an inter-local agreement.
What is the UTOPIA bond?
When UTOPIA first started back in 2002, 11 cities, known as the “pledging” cities, bonded $185 million for construction costs using sales tax pledges as collateral to secure the bond. Unfortunately, due to several factors, UTOPIA is currently not covering the debt service on the bond, but hopes, through subscriber growth, that UTOPIA will start contributing towards this debt in the future.
What is the UIA bond?
UIA is a funding mechanism to finance new build areas for new customers in the UIA member cities. In order to finance the new construction, UIA cities bonded for $65 million. Since its inception, UIA’s revenues have covered all payments on the UIA bond.
How has UTOPIA Fiber improved, and what is UTOPIA Fiber doing to continue to improve?
UTOPIA is continuously moving forward and is in the best shape it has ever been in. We have recently hit operational break even, where all operating expenses are now covered by revenues. Between remaining UIA money and the RUS settlement, we have operating capital we can use to expand. People seem to think we’re not building out our network, but we have been expanding for quite some time. Since January of 2015, we have made an additional 8,000 homes available for service. By the summer of 2017, that number will jump to over 15,000. Expansion is now underway in multiple cities across the network with plans to build out additional neighborhoods in Orem in 2017. All of the expansion is being done to demand and the cost is landing squarely on subscribers. We are most definitely alive, well and growing. Our goal still remains to build out all of our member cities; however, it does take time. Building a mass infrastructure doesn’t happen overnight.