Thursday, October 18, 2007

UTOPIA in Woods Cross

The Woods Cross City council is currently looking into becoming a member of the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA). As part of this process, a City Council work meeting was held on Tuesday. The council invited representatives from UTOPIA, Qwest, and Comcast to be in attendance. The city came up with a list of questions for each of the entities. Citizens in attendance were also allowed to ask questions. I'll give my point of view of what happened. There is also a blog at where you can get another resident's point of view.
The UTOPIA representatives first heard the questions at the meeting due to Gary Uresk e-mailing them to the wrong person. They answered as many of them as they could without proper research. I'll highlight a couple. They mentioned that the projected take rates (take rate is the percentage of people who do sign up for the service) from the feasibility studies were between 8% and 40%. Overall the projected take rate was about 17%. They have a overall take rate today of about 25%. UTOPIA has agreements with providers who actually provide the service to the end users. UTOPIA itself doesn't provide the service to the end user. I mention this because, there was a question asking What % of the time is your system fully functional to the end user? UTOPIA would not really be able to answer that question as they only provide the service to the providers. UTOPIA did mention that they have Service Level Agreements (SLA) with their providers for 99.999% uptime. They also mentioned that because they focus on being an "Open Infrastructure," Comcast and Qwest could run their services over UTOPIA. To date, they have chosen not to. UTOPIA representatives also mentioned that if pledge monies needed to be invoked (which they haven't been yet) it would be somewhere between $3 - $8 per household. I think it is important to remember that if there is a high enough take rate, the city would receive revenue from UTOPIA. Even if the take rate is as low as 25% overall, there would not be any public money used.
Comcast went next and mentioned several areas in the city where they do not provide services. This includes the Cahoon Meadows, Field Crest, and a majority of the Clover Dell subdivisions. They hope to get service in these areas "soon." I noted that soon to a corporate entity probably is not the same as soon to a resident who wants the service. I asked Comcast if they had a limit on their service as it relates to how much I could download or upload. They mentioned that there was a limit, but, would not state in gigabytes what that limit was. I knew this would be their answer as I saw them featured on a "Get Gephardt" segment a while ago. Their representative mentioned that if you were a heavy user, you could get a commercial account that runs about $100 per month. The regular "limited" account is about $35 per month. The only reason I mention this, is because Xmission, who provides service across UTOPIA does have a limit of 100 gigabytes that they clearly state on their website.
Qwest went next and dodged most of the questions by saying that the information was proprietary. They stated that they would not be comfortable telling which areas in the city didn't have DSL available when there were competitors in the room. I found this very interesting, since Comcast had just finished telling Qwest which areas Comcast doesn't offer service. I'm more than willing to tell all Qwest competitors that I can't get DSL at my house in the area of 1450 West 1900 South. I asked, "When I go to Qwest's website, it says that I qualify for DSL, however, when I actually try and get DSL I'm told that my line doesn't qualify. In the information that Qwest will give to the City Council, will my house show up as having DSL available?" The representative dodged this question better than anything I've witnessed before. I felt like this was a yes or no question. The Qwest representative said that some areas qualify for DSL, but there are technical limitations in some of the lines that mean those lines can't get DSL. My reason for asking this is that if Qwest provides the council with a list of areas that do have DSL available and my house is on that list, then that list is not accurate as I cannot get DSL at my house. Qwest would be over stating how much of the city is really covered.
I also found it interesting that Rick Earnshaw stated that he "has a real problem with spending public money to compete with private entities." I stood up in the open session that followed and commented that it is ironic to me that he has a problem with public money being spent to compete with private industry when this happens all the time. Rick Earnshaw voted for Woods Cross joining the South Davis Recreation District which competes with private gyms. In fact, Xcel Fitness claimed in a Davis County Clipper article that the taxpayer funded recreation center put them out of business in Bountiful.

1 comment:

Eric Gridley said...

Great summary of what happened, Thad. I have two comments:

I thought that the Comcast representative said that the cost for the commercial account was $100 MORE than the residential account, meaning it would be more like $135 - $150/month.

The Qwest representative did say that in the coverage map that they give to the council, that in the areas that are designated as "able to get service", there would be some houses that would in fact be UNABLE to get service because of those technical limitations.

Correct me if I am wrong on either of those points.