Provo residents may be freed of the burden of paying for the bond taken out to cover iProvo should one legislator get his way in the upcoming session.
Rep. Keith Grover has a bill, House Bill 273, that would ban municipalities from charging a fee to those who aren't receiving cable television or telecommunication service from the city.
"If this bill passed, it would be the end of iProvo," Grover said.
The Provo Republican said one of his constituents had contacted him to run the bill. The constituent told Grover that he was concerned about Provo's practice of charging a fee to every utility customer to cover the cost of the bond taken out to pay for Provo's fiber-optic network, even though every Provo city utility customer is not an iProvo customer. Grover thought the idea was worth addressing with legislation and opened the bill to see if he can free residents from paying a fee for a service they don't use.
Provo city officials were unaware of Grover's plans until contacted by the Daily Herald for a comment on the proposal. Deputy mayor Corey Norman said city leaders plan to sit down with Grover in the coming days to discuss the bill. Norman argued that if Grover understood Provo's situation, he'd see the fee on the utility bill is the best option for Provo residents.
"Every time we come into a room and provide the information about what we are doing with the network, everyone always comes to the same conclusion that we did," Norman said. "It was the best of the possible solutions out there."
The Utah Taxpayers Association agreed with Norman's assessment of the iProvo situation in August 2011. It called Provo's plan to buy back the network and then charge a fee on residents' utility bills to cover the cost of the network "the least bad way forward." However, they also praised Grover for his bill, saying it would prevent similar situations from happening in the future.
"I think Rep. Grover wants to make it that much more clearer that government should not get into the business of being in business," said Royce Van Tassell, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association. "Government shouldn't be in the business of business and the taxpayers association supports policy to prevent that from happening."
Grover's bill may reach further than just Provo if enacted. His bill also may impact municipalities that are involved with UTOPIA.
"I would anticipate if something like this were to move through the Legislature that it would affect municipalities that are a part of the UTOPIA network and somewhat impact any community that operates a service like UTOPIA," said Jamie Davidson, assistant city manager of Orem.
Currently Orem does not charge a fee to residents who do not use UTOPIA. However, Orem has attempted to raise taxes to pay for UTOPIA, which could be a strategy Provo could look at if Grover's bill is approved.
Grover's bill will be considered in this year's legislative session, which begins on Jan. 28.