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UTOPIA remains a mystery to many Murray residents

Published: Wednesday, March 7 2012 1:32 p.m. MST

The Valley Journals

MURRAY--Bring up the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, and you’re bound to get a variety of responses. UTOPIA is the group of Utah cities that banded together to create a fiber-optic network for residents and business owners. The network operates as a wholesale supplier, and allows subscribers to choose their own service provider from a list of companies including XMission, Veracity and InfoWest that offer Internet, television, telephone and other products.

Part of the problem is many people don’t understand how UTOPIA works and, with some serious financial problems delaying construction several years ago, residents seem to be leery about signing up for the high-speed service. A survey done in 2010 showed 54 percent of Murray residents didn’t even know about the fiber-optic network and, at the time, only 10,000 residents were using the system.

Long-time Murray resident Jenny Bates said she heard about UTOPIA a long time ago, but didn’t hear anything else for several years.

“I know it’s an Internet service,” Bates said. “But that’s about all I know. But I have noticed I’m seeing UTOPIA signs on the lawns in some of the neighborhoods around us.”

Despite the confusion, Murray Mayor’s Chief of Staff Jan Wells said the UTOPIA infrastructure continues to grow, and the Murray Fiber Committee is looking for ways to use the fiber already in place and provide more benefits to Murray residents.

“Right now, two-thirds of Murray has fiber in the roads or on the poles,” Wells said. “People who live in the area where the fiber is available have the option to connect to the network. This speed is as fast as you can get.”

UTOPIA is a big draw for businesses that want fast connection and greater clarity. Being connected to the network means customers don’t share bandwidth because the fiber-optic line is attached directly to the business or home.

Murray city leaders are considering ways to promote the network so residents can see the benefits of using the system. Hot spots in Murray Park might be available in the future, and leaders are trying to connect as many city facilities to the network as possible.

At $3,000, the connection fee for the network might seem steep to the average homeowner, but Wells said the cost can be added into the monthly provider fee and paid out over several years. And with upload speeds up to 10 Gbps, Wells is sure fiber-optics will be the technology of the future.

“I’m excited about the work [UTOPIA] is doing,” she said. “They’re pulling in all the loose ends and creating a good, strong infrastructure.”

Tom Haraldsen is the assistant managing editor of The Valley Journals newspaper group, and is currently president of the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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