Bountiful City’s Broadband Network, Lifeline Budget, Amazon Readies Kuiper Satellites

Bountiful City, Utah will continue work on a municipal broadband network after opposition.

Bountiful City’s Broadband Network, Lifeline Budget, Amazon Readies Kuiper Satellites
Photo of Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida, along with then-NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, and then-Boeing's vice president John Elbon in 2012, by NASA

July 25, 2023 – Bountiful City in Utah forges ahead with the construction of a municipal broadband network in partnership with internet infrastructure provider UTOPIA Fiber, beginning in August 2023, after a slight hiccup due to opposition from a local organization.

In late May, the city council voted unanimously in favor of the project called Bountiful Fiber to bring gigabit speeds to residents and businesses. The city will also issue $43 million in bonds to finance the project, with subscriber revenues expected to pay back the debt.

Bountiful City owns the infrastructure, but UTOPIA will build and operate the system, which is based on an open-access model where internet service providers share space and compete for customers over the same infrastructure lent by the municipality.

However, the plan was temporarily held back by a group called the Utah Taxpayers Associations, which financed a petition to halt the project until residents have a chance to vote for the issue on the city’s ballot this November.

In a press release on Friday, Bountiful Fiber announced the project would be back on track as the group failed to collect enough residents’ signatures to advance its opposition.

“Bountiful is a unique city,” said Mayor Kendalyn Harris. “Our residents started this process. They organized a ‘Fiber for Bountiful’ campaign that led to a thorough consideration of many options. We now look forward to offering a vital service to residents and businesses in an increasingly digital world.”

Gigi Sohn, executive director of the American Association for Public Broadband, applauded the city’s decision to go through with its fiber project in a Friday’s statement.

“The people of Bountiful City have spoken loud and clear: they want the city to work with UTOPIA Fiber to build a universal, affordable and robust broadband network for all of their residents, and they want that network now,” said Sohn, who wrote a July op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune calling the UTA’s opposition to Bountiful Fiber an attack on broadband freedom of choice.

2024 Lifeline budget and updated minimum service requirements

The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday the 2024 budget of $2.8 billion for the Lifeline program and updated minimum service standards for Lifeline supported services.

The Lifeline program is established under the Universal Service Fund and provides low-income households with monthly discounts of up to $9.25 and $34.25 on their wireline or wireless services.

The 2016 Lifeline order mandated an annual increase in the baseline service standard requirement for each of the services under the program.

According to the notice, the minimum service standard for mobile broadband services will remain unchanged at 4.5 Gb of data per month until December 1, 2024, following a waiver issued by the Wireline Competition Bureau on July 7 to pause the annual increase for another year. The minimum standard for mobile phone service will continue to be at 1000 minutes per month. Minimum service standard for fixed broadband usage, however, would be 1280 Gb per month, beginning December 1, 2023.

The bureau also revealed a Lifeline budget of $2.78 billion for the calendar year 2024, an increase of almost $200 million over the last year’s budget.

Amazon pours $120M in new satellite facility in Florida

Amazon is investing $120 million in building a new satellite-processing facility at Kennedy Space Center, bringing the company one step closer to the launch of Project Kuiper, a network of low Earth Orbit satellites aimed to provide high-speed, affordable broadband to unserved and underserved communities around the globe.

Kuiper satellites will be sent from Amazon’s manufacturing facility in Kirkland, Washington, to the new site in Florida, where they will be integrated with rockets from Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance and readied for launch.

“We have an ambitious plan to begin Project Kuiper’s full-scale production launches and early customer pilots next year, and this new facility will play a critical role in helping us deliver on that timeline,” said Steve Metayer, vice president of Kuiper Production Operations.

The construction is financed through the Space Florida’s Spaceport Improvement Program, a funding initiative to boost spaceport infrastructure. The company said in a press release on Friday that it planned to add up to 50 new positions to the local economy in the Space Coast area.

“Adding Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellite payload processing facility to the region’s growing industrial capability in commercial space is a testament to the power of building a statewide ecosystem that supports companies across the entire aerospace supply chain,” said Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida.

The facility is Amazon’s most recent investment in the space and satellite industry. The company said it has obtained 77 heavy-lift launch vehicles to deploy its satellite constellation, most of which will be launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Amazon’s venture joins a growing number of other companies, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX and aircraft manufacturer Boeing to deploy satellite networks for broadband connectivity.

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