Operators of the UTOPIA fiber-optic system say they are encouraged by the number of city residents who already have committed to receiving high-speed Internet, telephone and video services over its network.
Gary Jones, vice president of sales and marketing for the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, or UTOPIA, said nearly 400 Centerville residents have signed on to have the network brought to their homes once the system is up and running.
"The response we've gotten so far has been gratifying," Jones said, indicating that UTOPIA is anticipating having all the critical fiber-optic infrastructure in place and the network "lit up" sometime in October.
UTOPIA has had it sales representatives, or "advocates," out in the community signing up customers and letting others know about the network since early June.
Centerville City Assistant Manager Blaine Lutz said he anticipates that the number of residents signing on with UTOPIA will increase once the system is up and running.
"Right now people are signing up with the promise of future service," Lutz said. "But I think things will be different once the system is operating. People will be a lot more willing then to make the commitment."
UTOPIA was organized in 2002 by community leaders in 14 municipalities along the Wasatch Front. At that time, they believed the state's private telecommunications providers were unwilling to bring the benefits of high-speed Internet and other broadband services to their cities.
Eventually 11 of the founding communities, from Brigham City in the north to Payson in the south, pledged about $500 million over 32 years to back the bonds that UTOPIA sold to finance network construction.
The network, however, has been plagued with continuing losses and has yet to earn a profit.
In an effort to turn things around, UTOPIA's operators recently launched a new development strategy that is now playing out in Centerville. Under that strategy, public facilities will be hooked up first, followed by the city's residential neighborhoods provided that 25 percent of the homes on any given street or area sign up for service.
Lutz does not envision that 25 percent threshold as a problem.
"To get to that 25 percent we will need about 1,000 households signed up," he said, noting there are approximately 3,700 to 3,800 households in Centerville. "We already have some 400 signed up, so it is well within reach."
Centerville residents who sign up, though, will have to agree to pay a $3,000 connection fee, which is part of UTOPIA's current demand-driven development plan. If someone wants to pay up front, the price will be $2,750. Or, he can finance the connection fee and pay over time: $25 a month for 20 years.
One long-time UTOPIA opponent, Centerville City Councilman Larry Wright, said he is one of the 400 residents who have committed to receiving telecommunications services over the network.
"UTOPIA is a done deal in Centerville now," Wright said. "We're in this for the next 33 years. So I'm just hoping they can make it work, and I'm willing to do my part by signing on."
Wright said he is excited about the high-speed services that will be available over the network.
UTOPIA is being developed under an open infrastructure model. Under that model the cities own the network, which is open to any company that wants to use the network to provide services to the company's customers.
"We haven't seen a lot of marketing by service providers in Centerville yet, but I expect that will increase once the system is lit up," Lutz said.
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