This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah has more computers per household than anywhere in the country, and the U.S. Department of Commerce says we lead the nation in percentage of homes with high-speed Internet access. Having the best broadband infrastructure in the country is truly an achievable goal for our state, and UTOPIA has been, and will continue to be, a large part of our state's progress.
UTOPIA (which stands for the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency) is a growing consortium of Utah cities (currently Brigham City, Centerville, Layton, Lindon, Midvale, Murray, Orem, Payson, Perry, Tremonton and West Valley City) that have pioneered an effort to bring fiber-optic connections to every home and business within their boundaries.
The UTOPIA network is unique in its ability to create an environment for innovation, allowing Utah communities the best choice and value in telecommunications services today and access to the life-altering technologies of the future.
This matters for our state, and it matters for our country. In President Obama's recent State of the Union address he lamented that America's "infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do." He's right.
Because other countries are embracing fiber optics and open-access networks (where multiple service providers compete on the same fiber lines), families in South Korea, Japan, Sweden and 31 other countries are seeing Internet speeds much faster than the average American, and usually at a fraction of the cost. UTOPIA is bringing that paradigm to Utah, where the free-market competition on an open access network improves speeds and reduces cost.
But our competition in the technology-based 21st century is not only abroad, but more acutely with our neighboring states. Last month, the city of Fresno embarked on an ambitious project to bring fiber to 5,000 California homes. Colorado awarded the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments $3 million to expand its open-access fiber network, and Wyoming's governor, in his State of the State address, called for increases in fiber-optic lines to that state's communities.
Utah must continue to grow fiber-to-the-home networks and open access networks or we will not only continue to fall behind internationally, but we will also be passed up by neighboring states competing for the same jobs and companies we are.
As President Obama summed up in his recent State of the Union: "This isn't just about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls. It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It's about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small-business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It's about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor."
Utah can lead the way in this digital future, and the cities of UTOPIA are proud to be part of the cutting-edge solution.
We are building this network not as a money-making operation, although our financial situation improves as our subscriber base grows. We are building this network for the same reason local governments built highways in the 19th century and airports in the 20th century: This infrastructure will be what connects our 21st century world.
Kane Loader is city manager of Midvale and the chairman of the board of UTOPIA.