Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Political morsels to help keep the Holidays spirited

Published: Sunday, Dec. 9 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Pignanelli: I represent Comcast — a private sector company that competes with UTOPIA. Thus, I have been plagued with arguments from the utopians that the American transcontinental railroad, the Apollo moon shots and the Internet all needed massive government assistance to succeed. They forget that the private sector was nonexistent or not able to engage in such a large endeavor when those activities occurred. Conversely, at the birth of UTOPIA a broadband market was developing. The city venture could not keep pace with the private innovation. Thus, the mountain of utopian debt grows every day (currently $500 million). This situation jeopardizes the financial health of the 11 member cities and we know who ultimately gets this tab. UTOPIA describes a fantasy world, but in reality has delivered an untenable situation that must be ended immediately.

Webb: I did some work for UTOPIA many years ago when it first started. Some municipal fiber optic networks have been successful around the country, operating under the same principle as airports: Government builds the basic infrastructure, but the private sector uses the infrastructure to compete and offer services. It's a reasonable theory, but tough to execute, and certainly mistakes have been made. The cities went into the arrangement with eyes wide open, so they're responsible. They'll have to make it work or eventually sell off the assets with their taxpayers taking the hit.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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