PROVO In June, the Provo City Council budgeted $1.2 million or $100,000 a month to cover the losses it expected iProvo to suffer during the coming year.
That won't be enough to do the job if the deficits in July and August are a signpost.
The city's ambitious fiber-optic telecommunications network delivers the fastest residential cable Internet speeds in Utah and has 10,000 subscribers, but iProvo operated at a $112,403 deficit for July and August, according to a report on iProvo's performance for the first two months of the new fiscal year.
Several council members have expressed concern that if the added deficits continue, it could mean iProvo would need another half-million dollars from the city before the fiscal year ends next June.
"If we take $112,000 times six, is it realistic to assume iProvo will need another $700,000?" council member Steve Turley said.
City and iProvo project leaders aren't sure, but they expressed optimism.
Bruce Riddle said the network's service providers, MStar and Veracity, offer a new promotion that adds subscribers but so far provides no new revenue. Under the offer, new subscribers receive the first three months free if they sign up for triple-play services digital cable TV, phone and Internet.
When those new subscribers reach their fourth month, revenues should rise and help the project's bottom line, Riddle said.
Also, iProvo project manager Kevin Garlick announced that the city wants to add three new service providers that could bring more subscribers to the network Emery Telcom, Fibernet and XMission.
XMission was Utah's first independent Internet service provider, and Fibernet was among the first. XMission signed a deal with Ogden in April to build a Wi-Fi network for the city that eventually will span 28 square miles and provide free or low-cost wireless Internet access.
Eight companies responded to Provo's request for new service providers to join iProvo, Garlick said.
"I'm not ready to say these three will be automatically added," he said. "They have been sent a letter saying we're interested, based on their abilities and financials."
Garlick said the companies were split between focusing on triple-play residential service and focusing on businesses.
The city wants iProvo service providers to market the fiber-optic cable network to more commercial businesses. So far, 428 businesses are subscribers in a city with a few thousand companies.
In comparison, iProvo has 5,068 apartment subscribers, 52 percent of potential subscribers, and 4,388 residential subscribers for a "take rate" of 22 percent as of Aug. 30.
Finally, Provo's telecommunications board continues to look forward to the addition of new products that could be offered over the iProvo network and contribute new revenue streams.
Meanwhile, iProvo technicians reported to the board that the network's stability has improved. Customers had reported numerous problems with MStar and Veracity in 2005 and 2006, but complaints are dropping.
"Our reliability is pretty outstanding," iProvo network manager Jeff Wilson said. "The things we're chasing these days are smaller and don't impact customers much."
Mayor Lewis Billings has asked Wilson to find a way to monitor iProvo telephone services so the city can know before a customer if an outage occurs and fix it.
Despite decreasing complaints, the city is re-emphasizing its iCare customer service program, offering a $5 Hogi Yogi gift certificate to callers who experience trouble. Customers first should call their service provider. If a problem persists, they can call the iCare team at 852-6873.
The iProvo network can carry Internet data at 100 megabits per second, and Billings has said service providers someday will provide that speed. Wilson said the network's capacity can be expanded.
MStar is delivering 15 Mbps per second and Veracity 10 Mbps on iProvo, both for downloads and uploads. Garlick said Veracity is in discussing ramping up to 15 Mbps.
Qwest offers 7 Mbps downloads, with uploads at 896 kilobits per second, company spokesman Gary Younger said.
Comcast offers Internet download speeds up to 8 Mbps with a built-in "power boost" to 12 Mbps when a customer is downloading a big file. Comcast's highest upload speed is 768 kbps, spokesman Ray Child said.Comcast's CEO unveiled a new technology in May called channel bonding that can deliver 150 Mbps over a cable modem. He said that technology could be available within a couple of years.
E-mail: [email protected]