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Comments about ‘Tax or fee? Cities face key decisions on future of UTOPIA’

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Published: Saturday, June 14 2014 6:20 p.m. MDT

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carman
Wasatch Front, UT

Of course internet should be a utility. The scale advantages of rolling out ubiquitous high-quality service would spur innovation in the private sector. Internet access is becoming as important as electricity was 2-3 generations ago. Without high-quality internet, certain citizens will be at a significant competitive disadvantage to those who have such access.

Fibonacci
Centerville, UT

I support the proposal from Macquarie. It's win-win. Similar to the Google Fiber deals that Salt Lake and other cities are falling over themselves to get, the kicker is that Macquarie's proposal provides for competition between internet services providers that promises to keep prices low. Heck even Comcast and Century Link could use it. In "google" cities it is google service and pricing - period. The Fiberoptic infrastructure that UTOPIA provides has enabled me to save $60 per month on phone and internet over what I was previously being billed by COMCAST and my speed is probably 40 times faster (850 Mbps up and down). The fiberoptic service has never gone down in nearly two years. We had outages every few weeks before that with Comcast. The Internet highway is here to stay. Comcast and Century Link had the option to lay fiber for their customers and they chose not to. Ask yourself, if your city had Google knock on your door and invite you to become a Google fiber city would you do it? Well, the Macquarie offer is even better.

boneheaded, but not a smidgen
SLC, UT

another public sector financial disaster. the article does tell the whole story of mismanagement and taxpayers' financial loss with this boondoggle. any time the government gets involved in the "Father knows best"role, you can be assured the taxpayers will suffer.

Fibonacci
Centerville, UT

Yes fiberoptic infrastructure should be a utility. Yes, the internet is very much like other utilities such as roads or electricity. This is a much better deal than even the much coveted Google Fiber would offer because it allows for competition. As a household that enjoys fiberoptic service through Utopia, and is saving $60-80 per month for phone and internet service that has been MUCH MORE reliable than antiquated comcast or century link services, at speeds of ~850 Mbps, I can tell you that this deal with Macquarie is a great opportunity. Don't let the people unopia nay sayers mislead you. If they had their way we would all still have outhouses and be hauling our water in buckets from the nearest river.

cmsense
Kaysville, UT

Being required to pay $240 or more per year every year for the next 30 years whether you use or want a service or not. I am a fan of high speed internet, but lets call a spade a spade. That is definitely a TAX and so whatever Utah laws there are regarding imposing taxes need to be obeyed. Does that mean they get high speed internet for $20 or will they be subidizing those that sign up? Do people still have to sign up with another service provider that piggy backs on Utopia, so you end up still paying a high rate because everyone wants their cut?

If a system can deliver good value, people will flock to it. I pay over $50 per month for comcast for internet and if it wasn't bundled it would be over $70 per month. Were Google fiber is available, comcast charges or offers the service a much lower price due to competition. It seems Utopia should be able to compete and survive without being forced on people. I highly suspect mismanagement and poor business planning.

And how about those in places like Brigham City where they were charged a $3000 hookup fee?

Cool Cat Cosmo
Payson, UT

I think that moving this forward is great. We built in Payson, UT about 3 years ago, and we were excited when we learned about Utopia. Heck, we even have one of their utility boxes in our front yard. However, do to all the mess the network was in, etc., they wanted $2000+ just to do the install..."Say WHAT??"

Anyway, unsurprisingly we went with someone else, but the idea is still very appealing to me, especially if they make that install more reasonable (say...$100 or less). As I understand it, all of the member cities are still on the hook for an immense debt associated with UTOPIA, to one degree or another. Apparently Payson is a smaller player in all of this, but personally I would really like to see them come on board. The investors' 30 year plan appears to allow the cities to pay off those huge amounts of debt, get everyone connected, and then once the major infrastructure is built, continue to provide services at minimal rates, even lower than the estimated $20 monthly fee.

My question: already owing so much, why NOT take advantage and make this a net positive rather than the money sucker it has become?

Ultra Bob
Cottonwood Heights, UT

UTOPIA is for business. Ordinary people don't want it, don't need it, and should not have to pay for it. All of the costs and liabilities of UTOPIA should be applied to business operations.

Marco
Draper, UT

Somehow in Draper we are fine without UTOPIA. This is the biggest fraud in Utah history. Stopping would not be a financial disaster - it is a SUNK Cost. Try to get something out assets(if the cities deal is set up to do so which I doubt) and move on.

The cities are at fault for being sold. If you believe people live in Murray because of Utopia, wait till they realize they pay $400 more per year whether they use Utopia or not. All city council members should be embarrassed. Whether you believe it is good or bad, financially it's a disaster. What Deseret News should do is go undercover an talk to first level engineers working for Utopia. When should Comcast and CentryLink start to sue? All money spent on this has been lost. All money in the future will be lost.

The concept of running fiber is great. Doing something like Utopia is crazy. Letting crazy people run Utopia just might be crazy. Due to the financial disaster Utopia is falling way behind on technology. The funniest thing may be that the "O" in Utopia stands for Open.

Health Teacher
OREM, UT

NO, NO, NO!!! Many of us do not want another tax, and especially one that is being created to hide the incompetence of the elected officials that started UTOPIA. This idea that we need high speed internet as a utility is a lie. Most residents do not need it at all, many may want it, but the majority of us have already voted with our choice not to sign up. This should make it very clear that we want choice in our internet provider. On another note, the research is starting to mount against the current trend of amassing hours in front of computer and television screens. I predict there will be a huge reversal trend where families that care about their health will start getting away from the addictive and sedentary past-time of glueing their faces to the electronics in their homes. Ever seen the movie "The Village", there is a valid point in this film that the modern age, especially electronics, are stealing the humanity and distancing ourselves from really enjoying life and relationships.

SigmaBlue
Centerville, UT

I'm all for technological advancement, but at what cost? No matter how you look at the UTOPIA/McQuarie deal, it's a tax not a fee, especially when citizens are forced to pay whether they use it or not. Plus the fact that if you don't pay the UTOPIA tax, the city can turn off your water. This is a very poor business model and eliminates competition which actually drives innovation. The best thing the UTOPIA cities could do is put this financial boondoggle on the open market and sell it to a private concern such as Google Fiber, where customers can choose to pay for the service or not. I appeal to all the citizens involved to call your city officials and tell them to vote NO on UTOPIA because there's a much better way to bring fiber to the home.

Dafbush
Centerville, Davis, UT

To The Centerville City Council
I get it that the Internet is important and valuable
I get it that I will likely have a monthly ISP bill for the rest of my life
I get it that the current infrastructure is inadequate for current and future demand
I get it that government support for highways, trash removal, energy distribution, and communication have been beneficial for our way of life
I also get it that the internet is different than other utilities
Very large and very profitable players already exist and have the wherewithal to manage investments in infrastructure and other technology that will make delivery easier and more profitable.
Before we jump on board and saddle our neighbors with more debt, let's let the industry that stands to make vast sums shoulder the risk and give us a choice about whether or not we want their service.
Let the industry players live or die on their own merits. Competition will foster innovation and keep the risk where it belongs.
Thanks for your consideration.

CDL
Los Angeles, CA

Better kept in the private sector. This would become another Govt. mismanaged boondoggle that would cost taxpayers more than they would care for as usual. Keep the Govt. out of it PLEASE!

jeanie
orem, UT

Macquarie is demanding relatively quick deadlines on huge decisions with binding commitments, forcing city councils to feel pushed to make a decision. It is rare that good decisions are made without a calm measured approach and time to really think things through, especially when money is involved. Why can't these decisions be made when we vote, allowing citizens a real voice? What's the rush?

My concern is we will go from huge amounts of debt from one dumb decision to becoming more financially entangled by leaping into another dumb decision. What is Macquarie's business track record? Do we have the time to get educated about them and study them out to see what they really offer? Our city council trusted the Utopia folks and the dreams they offered. Only 10% of our city is actually living that dream after years and millions of dollars of debt, an obvious failure with long term ramifications for every citizen. Will our city council be more wise this time or will the citizens continue to carry the costs?

aceroinox
Farmington, UT

I also question the wisdom of locking yourself into a 30-year commitment with a technology that will most likely be superseded by other technology during that timeframe. The nice thing about leaving it in the private sector is that competitive forces will drive investment and innovation, and in turn deliver lower prices and better technology.

The sad thing is that those of us with decades of experience in the technology sector were raising warning flags when UTOPIA was first proposed. City fathers chose to ignore the warnings and forged ahead, mesmerized by the promise of nearly free, ubiquitous, ultra high-speed Internet and all the promised benefits. Now that those cities have painted themselves into a corner, the options available from this point are severely limited. Any private corporation that offers to bail out such a project is doing it for exactly the same reason as Google: the ability to harvest comprehensive data from the citizens of those cities. In today's world, that social, financial, intellectual, consumer, creative, business and thought data is the new world currency...invaluable!

AlexanderTWolf
Lindon, UT

All of the questions raised so far have been answered in public meetings by Macquarie. Is it any coincidence that century link has an employee who serves as the secretary for the Utah tax payers Association? No conflict there is there? And for the guy who's paying $50 for Comcast, why wouldn't you decrease your bill from $50 to $20 if you could? Finally, the cities are not voting on whether or not to impose a utility fee yet. They're simply voting on whether to move to phase 2 of the due diligence process with this company. Why wouldn't we continue to study? What other options exist that are real and on the table today? I moved to a UTOPIA City years ago specifically for this infrastructure. Without it, I would have to move.

OlderGreg
USA, CA

If everyone is required to pay -- it is a tax.
There is no such thing as "free" in this world.
Provo tried it several years ago, and is no longer in the business. You really need to look and ask about their experience.
Considering the rate of change in the techy world, I would think a thirty year mortgage on this is foolishness

JeremyR
Murray, UT

Many are quick to dismiss the fact that the cities are on the hook for the existing UTOPIA bonds whether or not the network gets enough subscribers to pay for it. So, regardless of whether or not UTOPIA should have been formed in the first place, the cities are already making those payments and must continue to do so. Thus, what makes the most economic sense at this point is to maximize the return on that investment. That doesn't necessarily mean to take the Macquarie deal, but there aren't exactly a lot of other suitors beating down UTOPIA's door.

To those who trumpet the Provo deal with Google--as I understand it, Google bought the network for $1 and assumed none of the debt. So Provo still gets to pay for it. I'm not sure that's such a good deal either.

And for those who are concerned about the competition, I'm sorry, but "competition" to me means more than a choice between one of the Comcast/CenturyLink duopoly. UTOPIA offers a choice of at least eight ISPs, and Big Cable and Big Telecom have a standing invitation to participate if they want to.

Y Ask Y
Provo, UT

How about taking some reimbursement from the salaries, retirements, and personal assets of those city council members, city officials, and others who mismanaged this fiasco?

What ever happened to accountability?

Clarissa
Layton, UT

All I know that is we are stuck with Comcast if we want good internet. We do have Utopia in front of our house, but there just isn't the offers available to sign up with them. I hope Utopia does eventually succeed so that there can be real competition. This will help keep prices down.

mcdugall
Murray, UT

@JeremyR It's also important to mention that ALL Provo residents and businesses are paying a debt retirement fee and that Google Fiber may NOT be available to everyone in Provo. The proposed 3P model will provide access to Fiber to everyone in all of the UTOPIA cities.

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