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Will Utah cities OK Australia company’s takeover of UTOPIA?
Broadband » Municipal network’s 11 member cities have four weeks to accept new terms.

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But last week, officials from UTOPIA cities unexpectedly voted to allow First Digital Telecom to make a last-ditch bid to compete for a piece of the UTOPIA business Macquarie is seeking.

UTOPIA’s two governing boards, composed of officials from member cities, convened a rare joint meeting last Wednesday, then went behind closed doors for more than three hours, to hear First Digital president Wesley McDougal and other executives give the company’s pitch.

At a glance

What is UTOPIA?

Short for the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency, UTOPIA was conceived in 2002 to give businesses and homes in 11 member cities access to Internet speeds of one gigabit per second, up to 200 times faster than what’s available from private vendors. The network still isn’t finished and has struggled with debt, mismanagement and low sign-up rates from customers.

Cities to meet on Macquarie deal

Lindon » Tuesday, June 3, 7 p.m., Lindon City Center, 100 N. State St. in Lindon.

Murray » Thursday, June 5, 6:30 p.m., Doty Education Center, 5121 Cottonwood St. in Murray.

Centerville » Thursday, June 5, open house and Q&A, time and location not specified. Tuesday, June 17, public hearing, 250 N. Main St. in Centerville.

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Details of the First Digital proposal are being kept secret, under a confidentiality agreement between UTOPIA and the company. UTOPIA officials voted Wednesday to consider First Digital’s proposal alongside the Macquarie plan, but then voted minutes later to bar any other companies from submitting plans.

Reached at his Salt Lake City office on Friday, McDougal declined to comment on the company’s proposal.

For Macquarie’s part, Hann said some of the UTOPIA cities had asked "a week or two ago" for a waiver on the exclusivity clause so they could consider outside proposals, and the company agreed.

"We have a good proposal on the table," he said.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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