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Australian firm proceeds with plan to take over struggling UTOPIA

Macquarie Capital Group pushes for new citywide utility fees to fund the Utah network’s overhaul.

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To Loader, who with other officials has fought since 2006 to make UTOPIA work, Macquarie’s plan could mean fulfillment of the network’s original vision for full wired public fiber, with vast economic development and innovation potential for member communities.

"Some of the things that they were dreaming about 10 years ago may now be coming true," he said. "The possibilities for this are just endless."

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He said even the 3 megabit per second transfer speeds of the basic service Macquarie is proposing would be comparable to existing cable and DSL services, but at a price well below standard Internet bills in most Utah’s urban markets.

Still, while Macquarie represents a potential savior for the project, its new proposed "availability fee" may make the plan a hard sell in some circles.

Orem residents firmly rejected a proposal in recent years to raise taxes to fund UTOPIA construction. Several public officials in other member cities have been voted into office based on their staunch criticism of the network’s burden on taxpayers.

But Hann, with Macquarie, said the new fees are crucial to delivering a completed network at a competitive cost and avoiding past problems with some cities having more access than others.

He likened the fees to similar charges levied for other core utilities, such as water and electricity.

"What’s new is that it’s being applied to broadband connectivity, essentially saying it’s a basic utility everyone should have," Hann said.


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Twitter: @Tony_Semerad

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