PROVO — Provo city doesn't have deep enough pockets to keep iProvo afloat throughout 2008, an elected city official said Thursday.

The Telecommunication Board met Thursday to discuss iProvo's current predicament. At issue: iProvo experienced high churn rates throughout 2007 — an average of 115 canceled subscriptions per month — and it appears the fiber-optic telecommunications network continues to struggle in 2008.

Energy operations manager Bruce Riddle reported that 149 subscribers joined iProvo in January. However, 120 customers canceled their subscriptions.

Overall, iProvo saw an increase of just 29 subscriptions, for a total of 10,363.

"There really isn't a whole lot of excitement to present in this report," Riddle said.

In addition, the report shows iProvo posted a $53,750 deficit despite receiving a $100,000 transfer from the city's General CIP Fund. The city subsidized the network, which provides Internet, phone and television and video services, with sales-tax surplus throughout 2007, costing the city $1.2 million.

George Stewart, a member of the City Council, said Provo doesn't have the resources to keep up that pace. "That's just a lot of money coming out of the general fund," he said. "And I don't think we'll have the money this year because of the economy."

Mayor Lewis Billings said he agreed nobody wants to see the city supporting iProvo and said city officials are aggressively seeking new alternatives.

Two consultant firms in recent months have been called in to evaluate the system. Billings said city officials await the results of those reports.

In the meantime, he said, the city is considering various strategies.

"We need to make prudent moves to bring the iProvo momentum to where we want it to be," he said.

Kevin Garlick, acting telecom manager for iProvo, said the project's problem has been the wholesale model long shared with service providers MStar, Veracity and Nuvont Communications. "The wholesale model has its challenges," he said.

The model requires a high level of coordination between the service providers and iProvo engineers, and it's difficult "trying to get all of the players to play together in the sandbox happily."

Something drastic has to be done with iProvo soon, Stewart said.

The new city budget has to be completed by May, and it will be approved by July, and he doubts the City Council can send more money iProvo's way.

"It's going to be a tight budget year," he said. "And I don't think there's going to be $1 million ... to subsidize iProvo."

Billings said city officials are trying to move forward with a new strategy "as quick as (they) can."

"We're not just talking about it," he said. "We're working hard on it."

The city issued bonds in 2004 to finance construction of the $39.5 million iProvo network.


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