SALT LAKE CITY, October 19, 2015 – Utah has been leading the nation in many areas of broadband internet access and its proliferation, according to a report released on Wednesday by the non-profit Utah Foundation.
“Utah’s history of investing early and its collaboration among many public and private entities has helped develop an infrastructure that can support the local business climate, including Utah’s expanding tech sector which is heavily reliant on high-capacity networks,” reads the report, by Shawn Teigen, Christopher Collard and Robert Jordan of the foundation.
“It is likely that future internet applications will require exceedingly high-speed internet, far beyond that which is available today. Preparing the infrastructure now may be prudent,” write the authors.
Among the ways in which Utah has led the country in internet development include:
• The University of Utah was one node of [four at the time on] the ARPAnet in 1969, which is considered to be a predecessor of the internet.
• Utah charted new ground with its municipal providers, including iProvo, Spanish Fork Community Network, and UTOPIA [Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency].
• The Utah Education and Telehealth Network is a backbone in helping schools – and their surrounding communities – get connected to broadband service.
• The Utah Department of Transportation has been a big partner in helping internet service providers lay new internet infrastructure.
• The public-private interplay in internet proliferation is continuing to develop, helping ensure that communities update transportation and internet infrastructure simultaneously.
• Utah is now home to two Google Fiber cities: Salt Lake City and Provo. This will help raise their stature as “connected” communities as well as increase competitive services from Centurylink, Comcast, and others.
• US Ignite is looking toward Utah to develop a “metro internet” to increase internet speeds for twenty-first century applications.
In particular, the report treats the issue of UTOPIA in the following manner:
Some have considered UTOPIA to be a high-profile failure in broadband development. The consortium of northern Utah cities deployed an open access network, where a city builds the network but the internet is leased and serviced by independent providers. UTOPIA over-anticipated their number of network subscribers, which has led to a variety of financing problems that have yet to be resolved.
While the original deployment has left communities with substantial municipal debt, UTOPIA is no longer losing money. Furthermore, it has provided broadband speeds to communities that may not have had such service otherwise. In addition, many communities are modeling its open access structure, which allows small providers to enter markets without having to build their own cost-prohibitive networks.
Other open access cities benefited from UTOPIA’s early municipal entry into the industry; “someone had to be first, and the rest of the nation learned a lot from UTOPIA and iProvo.”
Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN, Google+ and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.