UTOPIA Fiber wraps work on largest open access broadband network in U.S.

UTOPIA Fiber is putting the finishing touches on the second largest municipal broadband network in the U.S., wrapping up a multi-year fiber build to more than 140,000 locations across West Valley City, Utah.

During a press conference announcing the news, UTOPIA executive director Roger Timmerman noted West Valley’s new asset is also the largest open access network in the country. Residents there now have access to broadband speeds ranging from 250 Mbps to 10 Gbps from 16 different residential ISPs and about 30 different business providers riding on the new infrastructure, he said.

“This is a city where they did have cable and DSL options. They recognized those were insufficient for their community,” Timmerman stated.

According to Timmerman, West Valley was one of the original 11 cities in Utah which joined together to form UTOPIA Fiber in the early 2000s. Work there started in 2004, but was halted soon after as UTOPIA worked its way through financial struggles. Construction resumed in 2009 but was slow going. However, activity picked up in recent years as UTOPIA was able to access the necessary financing to finish its work.

“It may sound like it was a 20-year project. Really about 75% of that city was all done in last two years,” Timmerman said.

UTOPIA's Deputy Director Kimberly McKinley held up West Valley – as well as Chattanooga, Tennessee, which boasts the country's largest municipal broadband network – as proof that such a network model can work in larger metropolitan areas.

“We hear all the time that municipal broadband is really only successful in smaller cities,” she said. “I think that it is huge to say that a city of 141,000 is not just built out but they have choice of 16 different providers and what that means to the community.”

UTOPIA has already expanded its project list well beyond the original 11 cities, announcing in January plans to build out its 19th city in Utah. It has also struck partnership deals with cities in Idaho and Montana, and most recently it inked a collaboration deal with the Golden State Connect Authority in California.

Timmerman said UTOPIA is in discussions with “a pretty long queue of cities” for additional projects. It expects to strike several more deals within Utah as well as in Idaho, Montana and additional states like Colorado and Arizona, he added.