Cox Won't Ride UTOPIA's Fiber
Officials at Cox and the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) shot down a rumor that Cox has designs on delivering services via UTOPIA's municipal fiber network that counts 16 "member" cities, including Brigham City, Cedar Hills and Orem. Comcast and CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) are among UTOPIA's primary incumbent competitors.
Reacting to news about a new video partnership between Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) and UTOPIA, a blog that follows UTOPIA's doings tried to flesh out a rumor that Cox had some interest in becoming a member in UTOPIA if it could get at least 50,000 new customers out of the deal, noting that it's at least technically plausible because Cox's Las Vegas cable system happens to be where UTOPIA's fiber backbone terminates. (See Dish Links Up With UTOPIA.)
While that would be an interesting (and explosive) scenario for a private cable operator that might be looking for growth opportunities outside its traditional franchise areas, it's just not in the cards. Cox confirmed that it has no plans to enter Utah, and UTOPIA insists that it has "no plans moving forward" to hook up with the MSO.
Jesse Harris, who brought up the purported UTOPIA-Cox connection, acknowledged that the rumor goes back a bit, adding that similar rumors about UTOPIA and Embarq surfaced before the company was bought by CenturyLink. With Dish entering the fold at UTOPIA to create a video/broadband bundle, he expects other service providers to strike deals with UTOPIA. "It signals the long-term viability of the network and provides a sense of urgency to not be the last one to the dance," he writes to Light Reading Cable.
While I'll be surprised if Cox or another incumbent MSO looks to UTOPIA as their first off-net service play, I still think the idea Harris floated isn't necessarily far-fetched. As we've discussed here before, it's only a matter of time before incumbent MSOs obtain the kind of programming rights that will let them expand their pay-TV reach beyond their traditional franchise borders. However, I think they'll pursue that with pure over-the-top plays that don't require partnerships with those that are running the access network. (See Signs of the Video Armageddon and Comcast Won't Go Over the Top.)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable