Utopia FTTH network looks to turn itself around

When the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) open access Fiber to the Home (FTTH) emerged in 2002, it was heralded as a hero by extending broadband to areas where the incumbents just did not feel they could make a good business case work. But ongoing financial losses and a lower than expected subscriber base, has forced UTOPIA to realign its strategy.

To get its vision off the ground, UTOPIA has asked its 11 member cities to join together to form the Utah Infrastructure Agency, whose goal would be to raise up to $60 million to finish building out its network. Although UTOPIA said in May it required more money to complete the network, this week was the first time it has laid out its new strategy that its member cities still need to approve. In addition, UTOPIA put in a bid to participate in Google's Fiber Communities program in February.

"This is what we have been working toward for the past two years, ever since I came onboard," said Todd Marriott, UTOPIA's executive director. "Under this model, the cities will not be spending any additional money until they are assured of a return on their investment."

Convincing the member cities--which have already pledged $500 million over 32 years to back the bond that UTOPIA sold to finance network construction--for yet another financial buy-in may be a challenge. While Jeff Alexander, the owner of Alexander's Print Advantage in Lindon praised UTOPIA because the "connection has helped us better handle our online business," the service provider has struggled to gain a critical subscriber mass, and continues to lose money.

After being in business for over eight years, UTOPIA doesn't have much to show for itself. To date, it only has 10,000 subscribers and it expects to report a $25 million loss in its 2010 fiscal year that ended on June 30 with another $20 million loss coming in the next year.

For more:
- Salt Lake Tribune has this article

Related articles:
UTOPIA moves on Google's fiber communities RFI
Utah's Utopia: You want fiber, you pay for it
Utopia has high price for member cities, users

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