December 12, 2009
Amy Macavinta

The Brigham City Council voted Thursday to approve a $4.8 million special assessment bond to finance the construction of a fiber-optic telecommunications network throughout the city.

The council chambers were overwhelmed with people, spurred by a Utah Taxpayers Association mailing urging residents to demand the city reverse its planned course of action.

“The public has no business competing with the private sector,” said Royce Van Tassel. “If you can find it in the Yellow Pages, then you shouldn’t be looking in the blue pages.”

UTOPIA representative Elizabeth Vincent called the association’s mailer “scare-mongering” and inflammatory. Brigham City partnered with UTOPIA seven years ago after being unable to get big-name companies like Qwest and Comcast to commit to providing fiber-optic technology in the community.

The original plan would have placed fiber-optic cables in areas where there was interest. The open network infrastructure could then be used by any service provider who wanted to participate, paving the way for small companies like local Internet provider BrighamNet to offer a higher quality service without having to front the big-business cost of updated technology.

More than 1,600 residents have signed on to the project, which costs each nearly $3,000 in installation fees per household. The fees can be paid up front or over time with interest. Those choosing to finance the installation cost will have a lien placed on their home. Participation is voluntary.

Six districts were designated for service within the city, and the majority of those who signed agreements were in three of those. There was not enough participation in the other three, leaving about 600 people who had signed up unable to get service.

After years of delays and unkept promises, the council voted in November to move ahead. Bonding will allow the city to connect residents who have already paid for the services and are now waiting to use them.

Council members were not happy with having to bond but say they have an obligation to make the best of what has become a less than ideal situation.

Brigham City will be paying $655,000 of the total bond. Connection for city facilities will be about $294,000, and the remaining $371,000 will make it possible to install fiber optics throughout the city and will be paid back as new clients sign up for service.