UTOPIA Fiber makes moves in Montana with $65M FTTP project

Utah-based open access network provider UTOPIA Fiber entered its third state, striking a deal to help Montana-based wholesale operator Bozeman Fiber complete a $65 million network expansion.

Bozeman Fiber currently runs an open access fiber ring in the city of Bozeman, Montana, serving local government and education facilities as well as more than 200 commercial customers. Its new initiative with UTOPIA Fiber seeks to grow that footprint to deliver fiber-to-the-premises to 22,000 homes and businesses there.

Roger Timmerman, executive director of UTOPIA Fiber, said during a press conference that figure could grow. “This is the first phase of a project that will cover the city and some areas of the county, and the intention is we’ll have future phases that reach further out into the county to hit more rural areas.”

The three-year project is expected to begin in the first half of 2022.

Once complete, the network will offer speeds of up to 10 Gbps for residential customers and 100 Gbps for business customers. Service will be offered through internet providers who purchase capacity on the network.

Greg Metzger, executive director of Bozeman Fiber, said in a statement “with this project, we’ll be able to attract and retain more businesses, and create jobs” in the city.

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Formally known as the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, UTOPIA Fiber is owned by a consortium of 11 cities in that state, and since 2009 has deployed more than $330 million worth of fiber projects. These have primarily been in Utah, though it signed a partnership deal with Idaho Falls Fiber in 2019.

In this instance, Timmerman noted Boseman Fiber will be financing the project in partnership with Gallatin County and will also be in charge of managing local resources related to maintenance and repair of the network. UTOPIA will be responsible for the network design, oversight of engineering and construction, materials management, remote monitoring of the network, provisioning, IT systems and running a service provider marketplace.

He added UTOPIA has already had conversations with internet service providers in the area and “we have multiple lined up for this and others that have expressed interest. So we anticipate subscribers will have a choice from several different providers.”

Timmerman said UTOPIA’s operational partnership with Bozeman Fiber is similar to the aforementioned Idaho deal and is “absolutely” something that can be replicated in other states interested in an open access model.

UTOPIA Fiber’s Deputy Director Kimberly McKinley said during the press conference “We are getting calls on the daily from many communities around the county who are looking to do these kinds of partnerships.”