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BOUNTIFUL – Fiber internet has taken off in Utah in recent years, and Bountiful is now poised for faster internet after the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the construction of a city-owned fiber network by Murray-based service provider UTOPIA Fiber.
Bountiful is issuing a $48 million bond to finance the network’s construction.
Although the network will be owned by the city, it will be fully operated by UTOPIA Fiber, which will lease the fiber to other Internet service providers under an open access structure.
This type of structure creates a competitive market where Internet service providers must “compete for customers and have incentives to innovate, rather than simply lock out competitors with a de facto monopoly,” according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
“The goal of the city’s fiber deployment is to provide a competitive market for Internet service providers through an open access network,” Gary Hill, Bountiful’s city manager, wrote in a letter to the council. “Resident requests and sentiment … demonstrate the need for city engagement to provide adequate, competitive, reliable broadband services.”
Debt service on the bond will be paid to use system revenues, the letter said.
“Based on the conservative range rate estimates provided by UTOPIA, Bountiful Fiber should have enough customers to be profitable beyond debt service beginning in year five,” Hill said.
The journey to bring Bountiful fiber optic internet has been going on for years.
It began in 2020, when the city began investigating the need, demand and desire for fiber-optic Internet services following requests from residents.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has recently forced residents to seek more online services, such as access to education and remote work. The city’s elected officials and staff began hearing more from concerned citizens about their frustration and difficulty getting reliable and high-quality Internet service in Bountiful. “, the letter says.
In February 2021, Bountiful’s mayor and city council directed city staff to begin options to “provide fiber optic Internet services to all homes and businesses in Bountiful.”
Then, in April 2021, a request for information was sent to fiber providers and four potential providers were interviewed as a result. Four months later, in August 2021, the results of the survey were shared with the mayor and council, who then commissioned Magellan Advisors to conduct a feasibility study, the letter said.
Good policy is usually something that is designed to best serve a constituency of people by solving a problem. Most of us here today… believe that deploying city fiber is just good policy for the people of Bountiful.
-Cecil Price-Huss, Abundant Counselor
After a nine-month feasibility study, the City Council again directed city staff to submit proposals for a fiber provider to build and operate a city-owned fiber network.
“The ideal partner will have experience in both areas and have a track record of cost-effective and rapid deployment. Over the next several months, city staff worked with partners Keller and Heckman to develop (the request for proposals). It was released in November. 1, 2022″, the letter says.
In December, two “qualified firms” were interviewed by an internal review team. After seeing the results, which were shared with the board in January, the board directed staff to begin contract negotiations with UTOPIA Fiber.
On Tuesday, the city council unanimously approved the construction of the fiber network.
“Good policy is usually something that is designed to best serve a constituency of people by solving a problem,” Councilwoman Cecily Price-Hewish said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Many of us here today … believe that deploying the city’s fiber network is simply good policy for the people of Bountiful.”
The initial term of the contract is 10 years, and the construction of the network is planned for 2-3 years. According to the letter, customers in some areas will have access to fiber within 18 months of the start of construction.
The 81-page report, which takes a deeper look and contains more details on the contract between Bountiful and UTOPIA Fiber, can be found here.