Qwest Nears UTOPIA

Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) is running fiber to 13,500 new homes in the Salt Lake City suburb of South Jordan, just 10 minutes down Interstate 15 from the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) municipal broadband network. (See Utah's Broadband War.)

The greenfield deployment is in a large development called “Daybreak” located in the city of South Jordan to the south and west of Salt Lake City. The developer, Kennecott Land, signed a deal last September appointing Qwest as the exclusive infrastructure and services provider.

Qwest says Daybreak residents will get data service of “up to 5 Mbit/s,” with the option to bundle in Qwest’s TV-over-VDSL service and land line and wireless voice services. (See RBOC IPTV: The Quiet Ones and Qwest: VOIP Saves Cash.)

“I think it’s great that they’ve caught the revolution of fiber," says UTOPIA spokeswoman Maura Carabello. "And I think we would look at this as an encouraging nod that even the monopolies are cracking and saying that fiber is the way of the future.”

The UTOPIA people actually invited Qwest to run services over its fiber network, but got no response. “The invitation is still open,” Carabello says.

Qwest officials attach no significance to their decision to build the large fiber plant right next door to the UTOPIA network. “This is really about looking to expand the offerings to our customers," Qwest spokesman Vince Hancock tells Light Reading. "It wasn’t in direct response to UTOPIA.”

The only other fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) development in Qwest's footprint is in the Lone Tree development near Denver where the carrier is headquartered. (See Qwest Building FTTP Network.) Kennecott Land spokeswoman Jana Kettering says Qwest was chosen for the deployment because it offered the “best deal,” but she declined to outline the terms.

UTOPIA could not compete for the Daybreak deployment because the city in which the development resides, South Jordan, long ago chose not to participate in the municipal broadband initiative.

The UTOPIA fiber network is still in the process of laying fiber in its 14 communities, and so far fewer than 2,000 are now receiving services. (See Muni Networks: The Public's Not Buying.) Most of those are customers of MStar, right now the primary service provider using UTOPIA’s wholesale network. MStar offers 15 Mbit/s of symmetrical broadband for $39 a month.

Carabello says AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Veracity, and Xmission will also offer broadband over the UTOPIA network, and two more service providers are expected to sign on soon.

Kennecott sold 700 of the Daybreak homes last year, and continues to see high demand, Kennecott's Kettering says. The company expects that 40 families will move into the new development every month.

The first household to receive Qwest services over FTTH was turned on in December, according to Kettering of Kennecott, and now some 40 households have been turned on.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

firstmiler 12/5/2012 | 4:08:26 AM
re: Qwest Nears UTOPIA Unfortunately, merely getting monopolies to "crack" and speed up the roll out of plant upgrades, and/or slightly lower their consumer prices, and or shift more rapidly to fiber or other next generation transmission mediums does not make for a successful ends for competing xLECs or Municipalities pursuing FTTH projects.

Investors, be they the willing variety as in early venture funding of boutique xLECs or the reluctant kind as in tax payers that have their money invested via proxy by a City Council or other governing body, will not reap return on their investments commensurate with the risk associated with such endeavors. The "we're winning a moral victory by lowering prices to consumers and forcing the monopoly incumbent to invest in our community sooner" is sounding a bit hollow and tired. Where is the successful business model that demonstrates that the Municipalities that enter into such projects stand to reap reasonable return on their investments?

RJ McMahon, I respect your passion, but please don't respond with platitudes about neutral plant, communications as a utility, references to the co-operative electrical plants successfully built in the early 20th century in western US. Until you or someone else can show a solid, well researched, and defensible business plan, I think the Municipal FTTH movement has proven to be a bust.

The incumbents have proven to be a bit more savvy and driven by empirically proven market driven motivations than their bright-eyed municipal competitors.

RTL Rules 12/5/2012 | 4:08:24 AM
re: Qwest Nears UTOPIA Who's providing the HW to Qwest?

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 4:08:15 AM
re: Qwest Nears UTOPIA Firstmiler,

I think muni FTTH needs much more than a business plan. Projects need to be backed by real power - political, economic and industrial. Sending bright eyed idealists armed with a business plan into this battle isn't going to be sufficient.
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