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Has Google vindicated UTOPIA?

Published: Thursday, Feb. 18 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

WEST VALLEY CITY — Leaders of the 11 cities that make up UTOPIA are calling a recent announcement by Google vindication of the fiber-to-the-home model they've been using for years.

Wednesday, the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency held a press conference to announce that it would be applying to Google's request for information. The Internet giant announced its plans to experiment with high-speed Internet and municipal governments on Feb. 10. Like UTOPIA, Google has said it would build an open-provider network.

"If nothing else, this bold statement by the industry leader is telling the world that the Internet of our future is demanding fiber to the home and affirming everything UTOPIA has always stood for," said West Valley Mayor Mike Winder.

Details about how the Google plan will work have yet to be revealed, but the company has said it hopes to provide one-gigabit-per-second speeds to between 50,000 and 500,000 people. Already, UTOPIA serves thousands of business and residential customers, but they make up only a fraction of the 500,000 residents who live in UTOPIA communities.

"I think it's an attractive partnership for both ends," said UTOPIA spokeswoman Elizabeth Vincent, admitting that there are probably many municipalities applying with Google throughout the United States. "UTOPIA is going to go ahead either way. If things worked out, it would be exciting, but we're going to move forward either way."

Applications to Google are due March 26. Applications for a second round of federal stimulus funding are due about the same time.

UTOPIA was denied federal funding in the first round but is "cautiously optimistic" this time around, said Vincent.

"We learned a lot from the first round," she said. "Some requirements changed that make UTOPIA a better candidate."

For more information on the Google proposal, visit www.google.com/appserve/fiberrfi/public/overview.

e-mail: rpalmer@desnews.com

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