Set UTOPIA free
As a resident of Orem and a long-time watcher of UTOPIA, I find it ironic that John Valentine is advocating a legislative solution to the UTOPIA mess when it is the Utah State Legislature who created the mess in the first place!
When UTOPIA was first proposed, I was all for getting a fiber optic connection to every home and business in the at-that-time 17 cities. In my opinion, the original business model was sound; install fiber to each home/business and offer data, voice, and television services at the retail level.
Of course, the entrenched incumbent businesses, namely US West (it became Qwest and now CenturyLink), Comcast, and AT&T, who would face real competition, sent their lobbyists to the state legislature and after some intense lobbying, got the legislature to eviscerate the UTOPIA business plan by passing a law that prohibited community-based consortiums such as UTOPIA from offering services at the retail level.
This “small” change meant UTOPIA would have to incur the cost of building out the fiber network, but could not offer services itself; instead, it would have to induce other service providers to offer the retail services and UTOPIA could only offer wholesale network services to the retail service providers. This single act of legislation doomed UTOPIA, which is exactly what the commercial competitors wanted.
How successful do you think CenturyLink, Comcast, or AT&T would have been if they had been forced by government to install their telecommunication or cable networks, but could not offer any services direct to customers? They would not have been successful at all!
Artificially limiting UTOPIA to a wholesale business model guaranteed it would incur huge debts with an inability to repay them because it cannot service the debt with the much-lower-revenue wholesale model. In addition, the retail services offered would be fractured, having no integrated single model of presentation and interaction with consumers.
In addition, it is doubly ironic the incumbent service providers yelled “fire” concerning UTOPIA and competition in the public marketplace to the state legislature when at the time they themselves were each guaranteed a monopoly in their respective marketplace, enforced by government edict. Their original reasoning? It would be too expensive to build a network and not have a guaranteed customer base to repay the debt!
If John Valentine truly wants to help UTOPIA, he should sponsor a bill to remove the shackles the legislature put on UTOPIA in the first place and let it truly compete as a retail equal in the marketplace, not as a chained and hobbled wholesale provider.
I, for one, am waiting for the day when I can get real high-speed services in a competitive marketplace, not the pitiful offerings of the incumbent service providers.
• Gary D. Brown is a resident of Orem.