Hugh Carey, Deseret News
Murray Mayor Ted Eyre, left, shakes hands with Ray Limberg, who worked as a firefighter for 42 years, during event at Station 81 paying tribute to past firefighters on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, in Murray.

MURRAY — At its peak subscription rate, Murray housed more than 3,000 UTOPIA customers.

Now, the fiber optic network’s membership in the city has dropped below 2,000, and Murray Mayor Ted Eyre wants to know why.

On Thursday night, Eyre unveiled a new campaign to increase private UTOPIA subscriptions and lighten the network’s burden on Murray taxpayers. The city is currently bonded to cover all UTOPIA operating costs not covered by its revenue. With the controversial Internet company running a $280,000 annual deficit in Murray alone, the shortfall is a heavy load to bear.

Eyre’s campaign targets the 1,100 Murray residents who have paid to install UTOPIA’s fiber optic cables in their home but are no longer using the service. The mayor hopes reach UTOPIA’s break-even point by persuading at least 600 of these people to rejoin the network.

“Ex-customers are the lowest hanging fruit,” Eyre told roughly 50 once-subscribers at City Hall on Thursday night. “If we need to increase the number of people that take UTOPIA, wouldn’t those be the people to go to?”

Thursday’s meeting focused on extolling UTOPIA’s new virtues, including shorter contract lengths and better Internet service providers. Crucially, UTOPIA has also eliminated the $3,000 hook-up fee it once charged Murray residents.

“I am on the network, but I would not pay $3,000 to be on the network,” said Justin Zollinger, Murray’s finance director. “That’s not a competitive price.”

The company has also introduced a new service option targeting potential new customers. UTOPIA’s services once started at $65 for 100 mbps. Curious Murray residents can now test the network at 10 mbps for $40 a month. Eyre also noted the appeal of the 10 mbps option to senior citizens and lower-income customers.

Still, many residents have doubts.

“I applaud Murray for doing this type of effort to try and get more people subscribed to UTOPIA,” said resident David Pettingill. “It’s the rest of the cities I worry about. I worry that UTOPIA has set the bar so low with the last 10 years of service that people aren’t going to give it a chance. I expect UTOPIA to go defunct, and then Murray is left hanging there.”

All audience members were given an exit survey which asked about support for the program after hearing the mayor's pitch and gave space to list potential concerns.

Email: aoligschlaeger@deseretnews.com, Twitter: allisonoctober