UTOPIA wraps up $20M fiber build in Pleasant Grove, Utah

UTOPIA Fiber is making steady progress extending its open access network across several states, this week announcing the official completion of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) construction in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

There are now 16 U.S. cities with UTOPIA networks providing access to speeds up to 10 Gbps for residents and 100 Gbps for businesses.

As of August, UTOPIA already has a 24% subscriber take rate across the 10,944 residential addresses where service is now available in Pleasant Grove. Construction initially started in 2021 for the $20 million project, with the first homes connected to the lit fiber network in May of 2022.

Like all of UTOPIA’s networks, the Pleasant Grove City project is fully funded through subscriber revenue.

UTOPIA CMO Kim McKinley has said community engagement is “an essential element in the success of building fiber networks,” and one which requires a combination of working with cities themselves and showing up at local events.

"We're residents of Utah and we're talking to other residents of Utah, and sometimes with big telcos that's not the case,” McKinley told Fierce last week.

Indeed, UTOPIA recently revealed survey data showing its subscribers feel “a sense of pride in choosing a locally owned, community-focused company over larger incumbent providers.” A decisive number (78.79%) of residents chose UTOPIA based on a “dislike of large telecom companies,” the customer survey showed.

UTOPIA currently has networks across Utah, Idaho and Montana. Last year, the company completed fiber builds in 14 cities across its existing three-state territory and struck a deal with California’s Golden State Connect Authority to boost rural broadband. Earlier this year UTOPIA’s subscriber count reached 55,000.

An open access network allows multiple internet service providers (ISPs) to operate through one infrastructure. UTOPIA has lauded the open access model for creating free-market conditions to keep costs down and speeds competitive – an environment it has called “net-neutral.”

As a consortium of 16 Utahan cities, UTOPIA has already led a number of successful municipal broadband initiatives. For one example, this year the city of Bountiful, Utah partnered with UTOPIA to install and operate a new open-access network.

Incumbent telecom companies attempted to thwart the Bountiful project. For decades, these incumbents have argued that taxpayer dollars should not be used to compete against their private investments.

But advocates for public broadband came to the project’s defense, including Gigi Sohn, the first executive director of the American Association for Public Broadband (AAPB).

“When given the opportunity in 2020, before anyone else, to provide Bountiful City with affordable and robust broadband, the companies balked. So the dominant cable companies not only don’t want to provide the service Bountiful City needs, they also want to block others from doing so,” wrote Sohn in an op-ed for The Salt Lake Tribune at the time.  

More municipalities are getting involved in local broadband initiatives, with some industry sources counting more than 600 communities in the U.S. served by some form of municipal network, and hundreds more by cooperative networks. 

Still, Utah is one of 16 states that has laws hindering municipal broadband in some form, and although some municipal broadband networks are managing to thrive in states that have rules against such networks, Sohn contended, “they shouldn’t have to do that.”