Mayor Ted Eyre had hoped that by the end of his first year as mayor, he would have been instrumental in finding a solution to the beleaguered and divisive fiber-optic network, UTOPIA. He’s hoping he only missed that deadline by a few weeks.
Early last year, Australian banking company Macquarie Capital Group offered to take over the struggling Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency, and each of the 11 cities participating in UTOPIA had to decide if they would sign on with Macquarie. After many public meetings and discussions, Murray officials decided against the proposal.
“We are not discouraged, just delayed,” Eyre said. “The time devoted to study the proposal from [Macquarie] for takeover of UTOPIA was unexpected and time-consuming, yet the right decision was made, and the proposal was rejected.”
By working with the city council, the finance director, department heads and senior staff, the mayor rolled out a program that he anticipates will rebrand the UTOPIA network and become known as Murray Fiber.
During the highest enrollment for UTOPIA, more than 3,000 Murray residents had signed on with the network, but membership has dropped to around 2,200.
With that in mind, hundreds of homes in the city that were already connected to the network were selected to be part of a pilot group to discuss Murray Fiber.
On Jan. 23, city leaders held a forum that included invitations to 90 previous UTOPIA subscribers, presenting an option for them to return to the network. Eyre wrote a personal letter to each of the 90 homes and called each person requesting their attendance at the meeting.
Because the UTOPIA infrastructure is already available to many city residents, Eyre worked with officials from the fiber-optic network to create an affordable incentive to reconnect to the UTOPIA system at a much more affordable cost.
“If we were going to encourage citizens to rejoin the system, we looked for ways we could reach out and inform the citizens,” he said. “Everybody believes it costs $3,000 and UTOPIA will put a lien on your home. And in some cases, that’s the truth. Some people chose to pay the $3,000 up front. They could also finance it at $20 per month, whether you stay in your home or not. That’s the most horrible marketing plan we’d ever heard of.”
Instead, Murray leaders have proposed a two-year contract that would allow residents to connect to the UTOPIA network system for $30 per month. Additionally, instead of the 100 Mbps currently available at a monthly cost of $65, UTOPIA has agreed to offer a product consisting of only 10 Mbps for $40 per month, making it more affordable for lower-income families and senior citizens.
During the forum, each attendee was given a fact sheet about the system and watched a 50-minute PowerPoint presentation, followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer session. Surveys were given to participants, and Eyre said residents seemed favorably impressed and willing to consider the program.
“If they choose to go back to UTOPIA, this is a really good option,” Eyre said. “When I came into office, one of my major objectives was to find a Murray solution to UTOPIA. This objective has consumed a considerable amount of time and effort by so many.”