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Centerville officials believe demand for fiber optic network will grow

Published December 2, 2012 1:14 am

Internet • The city sees UTOPIA as a lure to bring in businesses.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

UTOPIA Executive Director Todd Marriott has called Centerville "one of the most connected cities on Earth." And with the fiber-optic network 100 percent built out in the city, administrators believe demand will continue to grow.

In fact, Assistant City Manager Blaine Lutz thinks the bandwidth UTOPIA provides is an economic booster that soon will be considered a necessity.

Companies increasingly are telecommunications-based and want to be in communities with reliable high-speed Internet, he said. In addition, more people are dropping their cable connections because they watch TV on their computers and need the capacity UTOPIA offers.

"Once you enjoy the highbandwidth, you never want to go back," Lutz said.

Hogan Construction and Digital Business Integration, which are in the same Centerville building, signed up for UTOPIA the first day it was offered, said Devon Dorritty, an executive with both companies.

"We got twice the speed at half the cost," he said.

So far, 9 percent of businesses and 21 percent of residents in the city of 16,000 have subscribed, leaving plenty of room for subscriber growth.

Nearly every business and resident in Centerville can subscribe. The only exceptions are those in areas that require approval from homeowners associations or private-property owners with multiple-dwelling units.

Scott Higgins is a residential subscriber. He was frustrated by occasional drops in service with his previous home Internet connection, which also affected his phone.

With UTOPIA, his Internet is five times faster. Another bonus is the cost: He pays $53 a month for his Internet and phone service, an $80 savings. But what about the $2,700 price tag to connect to get wired to the fiber optic network?

"For me, that was easy to justify," said Higgins, who views the connection as an investment in infrastructure that increases his home's value.

He appreciates city officials' willingness to take a risk with UTOPIA.

"It really paid off for Centerville," Higgins said.

UTOPIA was not an instant hit for everyone. In 2008, when the network asked member cities to increase their yearly sales-tax pledges as part of a refinance proposal, Councilman Lawrence Wright wrote in a guest column for The Salt Lake Tribune that the proposal "looks, smells and feels like the financing schemes causing our current mortgage meltdown."

The council, however, approved the proposal. Wright said he's now working with UTOPIA to redo its business plan.

"The money's been spent," he said. "Rather than fight it, I've been trying to do my best to make it work."

pmanson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC