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Reluctant Murray pays $141,666 UTOPIA tab, but is hardly sold

First Published Aug 06 2014 11:49AM      Last Updated Aug 06 2014 10:30 pm

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) A work crew for Utopia, works near 2000 north Main Street in Centerville, Utah Monday, August 22, 2011 as they prepare to lay conduit under the road. The conduit will house fiber optic cables.
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Key players in Murray rely on UTOPIA’s high-speed access, Eyre said, including medical workers at the Heart and Lung Institute of Utah, the city’s own electric utility, other businesses, libraries and schools, and hundreds of residential users.

"They’ve paid for it," he said, "and I think they expect us to keep it operational."

Short for the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, UTOPIA was conceived 12 years ago to connect businesses and homes in member cities with lightning-fast Internet access, primarily as a spur to economic development. Its upload and download rates have been up to 200 times faster than services available privately, although companies such as Google and CenturyLink are now active in the market for delivering gigabit speeds along the Wasatch Front.



Through the years, UTOPIA has been saddled with a mix of mismanagement, massive debt, opposition from private-sector telecommunication companies and problems with network construction that have left its grid partially finished. It has a relatively small customer base.

UTOPIA’s finances have improved of late, but the consortium’s member cities continue to offset its budget losses, while paying millions a year in city sales and business tax revenue to cover its huge bond obligations.

While other cities have balked temporarily at contributing to UTOPIA’s operating expenses, only Murray has withheld them entirely — until now.

Taxpayers in all 11 UTOPIA cities will remain on the hook for UTOPIA’s debt even if the futuristic grid shuts down or is sold.

tsemerad@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Tony_Semerad

 

 

 

 

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