Lehi is looking at possibly bringing Utah’s open-access fiber-optic network to its residents.
During its work session Tuesday, the Lehi City Council instructed city staff to research the potential costs to residents for opting to partner with the Utah Infrastructure Agency to bring in UTOPIA Fiber, also known as Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, to the city for internet services.
The council heard an hour-long presentation by Roger Timmerman, executive director of UTOPIA, during its work session. While acknowledging UTOPIA’s past financial troubles and poor reputation, Timmerman touted the organization’s current success. He explained that UTOPIA has been in the black since 2008, and is much more cost effective to adopt now than it was 10 years ago.
“You get to avoid all the pitfalls that UTOPIA found themselves into in the early years, and you get to benefit from its years of success in recent history,” Timmerman said.
Lehi staff and council members voiced concerns about the “take rate” needed to avoid costs to city residents. At least 30 percent of residents on the fiber lines would need to sign up for UTOPIA service, or Lehi city would “be on the hook” for a portion of debt payments to UIA and UTOPIA.
“We’re asking residents to backstop a service that might not benefit them individually,” said Jason Walker, Lehi city administrator. “The odds of us hitting the take rate are very high, but again, I feel my responsibility to give you the worst-case scenario, to help you make the best decisions to keep the taxpayers safe.”
Lehi Mayor Mark Johnson and other council members voiced optimism that the city would easily hit the 30 percent benchmark, but they want more information, numbers and options before making a decision on it.