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UTOPIA survey reports high preference for fiber network, fast internet

By Genelle Pugmire - | Oct 28, 2021

Courtesy photo

In this 2016 file photo, UTOPIA trucks are shown in Orem as residents add on to the fiber optic network.

Fifteen years ago, 11 Utah cities joined in a collaboration that became the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency. At the time, many residents were skeptical of the financial investment and idea it was as important as other utilities.

Now, many of those same residents say they couldn’t do business, schoolwork or just live without it.

“When UTOPIA was first created in 2005, it was the dream of 11 cities to have a high-quality internet network,” said Bob Knight, spokesman. “It was created because other services weren’t delivering. Now, internet is an essential utility.”

Knight added, “Those 11 cities were way ahead of their time.”

By the end of 2022, all of those original cities will be completely built out with UTOPIA infrastructure, according to Knight, and UTOPIA is now the nation’s largest open-access internet network.

UTOPIA Fiber's construction contractors begin the work of running fiber cables under the street, connecting homes in an Orem cul-de-sac.

To show just how much attitudes and needs have shifted, UTOPIA took a survey of its broadband subscribers. The survey revealed that an overwhelming number of respondents are opting for internet speeds that exceed the current and proposed national standards, according Knight.

Survey results also reported that consumers’ desire for streaming services is far outpacing satellite TV, and that net neutrality — a model in which a provider does not adjust internet speed based on the type of content accessed — is extremely important to people.

Approximately 2,500 UTOPIA Fiber subscribers, ages 19-65 were polled in 15 Utah cities. The sampling size was from cities as small as Woodland Hills with a population of 1,600 residents to the second largest city in Utah, West Valley City, with a population of over 136,000.

UTOPIA Fiber differs from the traditional incumbent models by building networks based on the open-access model, which proponents say promotes competition by giving customers the freedom to choose which telecommunication services they want.

According to UTOPIA’s Customer Feedback Survey results, 92.44% of respondents use the internet for streaming TV or movies, using some services such as Disney+, YouTube TV and Apple TV+ that didn’t even exist three years ago. However, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Hulu were highest in terms of subscriber usage. Significantly, satellite service fell to 17.67% and cable ran 3.63% in household usage, compared with 2018 survey results.

“What we’re seeing is a seismic shift in the marketplace,” said Kimberly McKinley, deputy director and chief marketing officer of UTOPIA Fiber, who claimed that consumers, when given the choice, now are opting for fiber broadband for their daily activities. “Price was a little less of an issue, which shows that people are opting for speed, service and content that more closely dovetail with their rapidly changing lifestyles and business needs.”

Among respondents, 95.78% said that internet speed was either “extremely important” (67.59%) or “very important” (28.19%), with 43% of respondents choosing service speeds of 1 gigabit per second or higher. UTOPIA Fiber offers internet speeds ranging from 250 megabits per second to 10 gigabits per second, the fastest speeds in the nation, according to McKinley.

Over 90% (93.33%) of respondents also said that the reliability of the UTOPIA Fiber network was either “extremely important” (65.79%) or “very important” (27.54%) to them, and a deciding factor in taking their service over incumbent carriers.

“Not surprisingly, as consumers tend to be more mobile these days, the survey also indicated that the highest number of devices accessing the internet at home were smartphones (97.83%), laptop computers (92.63%) and tablets (80.51%). In the home, however, high on the device list were smart TVs (77.49%), streaming devices at 72.69%, 56.50% video game consoles (and) over 40% were security devices, another indication of personal choices,” Knight added.

“All of this data is yet another window into changing habits and tastes,” said McKinley, who noted that 63% of respondents said they would recommend UTOPIA Fiber to a friend or colleague and that 78.11% either strongly agreed (55.21%) or agreed (22.90%) with the statement “I am glad my city invested in UTOPIA Fiber.”

“These are arguably the strongest numbers in the nation among all internet companies,” she said. “Interestingly, most of the 15 cities in which respondents live are also served by large incumbent providers, so this kind of customer satisfaction is a real coup for us, and speaks to the fact that people want quality and they want attention.”

The Customer Feedback Survey was conducted in 2021. Most respondents were mainly male (74.54%), 63.50% of which hold bachelor/four-year or graduate/professional degrees; 51.15% are in households with annual income between $60,000-120,000; and 93.93% were homeowners.

Residents in Orem and Payson, two of the original 11 cities, will have their fiber network completed by the early part of 2022.

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