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Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency

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Overview Edit

The Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) is a publicly owned, publicly funded local government agency owned by 16 Utah municipalities. Eleven of these agencies raised public funding through bonds to build a $177-million fiber-optic open-access network over which private providers offer Internet, voice, and video services. Five municipalities decided not to raise funds, but remain on the network's board and can decide to pursue financing for their cities at a later date.

Some of the network's municipalities own infrastructure, such as utility poles, which sponsors said helps reduce the cost and increase the speed of deploying broadband. Project sponsors said their goal is for the network to be financially self-sufficient, but said that goal has yet to be attained for various reasons. The project used $16.2 million of BTOP funds to connect 288 community institutions with middle-mile service over UTOPIA's fiber backbone. In addition, UTOPIA received partial funding from a $66 million RUS loan for broadband deployment to rural areas. After disbursing $21 million to UTOPIA, RUS suspended the loan until UTOPIA could demonstrate improved financial performance. Project sponsors indicate that they have taken steps to improve the performance and that 3 years ago they began deploying the network to areas that promise greater return on investment.

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