Utah’s Utopia moves forward with user-owned fiber

Utah’s multicity public fiber network, Utopia, is moving forward with a new model in which individual users pay the cost of connecting their homes with fiber.

Late last week, the Brigham City Council approved a $5.5-million plan to extend the wholesale fiber network throughout its streets. The city itself is putting up just $655,384 of that cost, while business and residential customers who want fiber are putting up the rest.

Already more than 1600 individuals have agreed to pay $3000 each for their own fiber-to-the-home, the Cache Valley Daily reports. The city is allowing homeowners to spread that payment out over 20 years, to just $25 a month. The city gets a lien on the property in such cases and also reaps the economic-development benefits of city-wide fiber deployment without having to take on enormous loads of debt up front.

The move is just the latest strategic shift for Utopia. In 2008, after struggling with financial and operational shortcomings, Utopia’s new management shed its original commitment to simultaneous ubiquity in favor of building out first to the most lucrative areas (e.g., office parks). Along the way, the ambitious project illustrated the challenges inherent in the wholesale-only public fiber access model.

This month, Utah’s governor recommended Utopia’s application for federal broadband stimulus funding.

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