This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
UTOPIA, operator of a high-speed fiber-optic system along the Wasatch Front, wants to drop troubled Colorado-based Prime Time Communications as one of its service providers.
Prime Time provides telephone, Internet and interactive-television services to a number of customers throughout the UTOPIA system, but some of those customers have been without service for nearly a week in the wake of bankruptcy filings by Prime Time and a sister company, MStar.
The number of customers without service, or how many total customers Prime Time has through UTOPIA, is considered "proprietary information" and not publicly available, said UTOPIA Executive Director Todd Marriott.
He added that because of the bankruptcy proceedings his system cannot drop Prime Time or initiate changing customers to other providers without permission from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Colorado. UTOPIA is seeking that permission through an Oct. 6 filing with the court.
However, he said customers affected by the cutoff or those whose service is still intact can initiate a change on their own by contacting UTOPIA for suggestions about other providers. It lists 14 on its website, http://www.utopianet.org, but has 17 available. "And we're in negotiations with four others," Marriott said.
UTOPIA attorney David Shaw said the two entities owe his client more than $1 million "due to nonpayment of bills," and that makes the company a creditor in the two bankruptcy filings.
Calls to Englewood, Colo.-based Prime Time Communications seeking comment were not returned Monday. However, a Prime Time customer-service representative, reached through a Colorado number, declined to give details on service problems, saying only that a new service provider was being sought and that the situation could be resolved "in two weeks."
Customer Jan Crane of Midvale lost landline service "at least as far back as last Wednesday. We use our cell phones so much it took a few days to realize we weren't getting any calls on the home phone. I picked it up. It was dead."
She said when she called the company to ask what was happening, she would get only a recorded message that said Prime Time was changing providers and advising customers to reset their control boxes.
"We went downstairs several times and reset the box, and nothing happened." She went to neighbors to see if they had service, but all of them were either with Qwest or Comcast.
According to court documents filed last month by UTOPIA, Prime Time filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Jan. 29; nearly three months later it was given permission by the court to borrow $2.2 million from affiliate MStar, which covered some of Prime Time's payments to the fiber-optic company.
Then, on Sept. 3, MStar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief. That, according to UTOPIA's Shaw, was when some customers started losing service.
Do you want to change providers?
A telephone, Internet or interactive-television customer can choose his or her own provider, including companies such as Qwest or Comcast, or a provider that uses UTOPIA's high-speed, fiber-optic system.
To find out which providers use UTOPIA, go to http://www.utopianet.org or call 801-613-3800.
UTOPIA, short for the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, was organized in 2002 by community leaders who believed the state's private telecommunications providers were unwilling and unable to bring high-speed Internet and other broadband services to their cities.
Eventually, 11 Utah cities pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to back the bonds needed to finance construction of a "wholesale" fiber-optic network that independent service providers could use to provide telephone, high-speed Internet and television to their customers.