December 19, 2009

What a mess UTOPIA has become. The perpetually in development, money-losing deal to bring a fiber-optic network to Utah communities has caused nothing but problems for residents who signed on to the bad deal. It’s embarrassed local public officials who feel locked into a commitment they obviously wouldn’t sign today.

The latest example of the UTOPIA static is Brigham City, where despite overwhelming calls from residents to ditch the project, the mayor and city council pathetically approved the issuance of a bond worth $3.7 million to fund a fiber-optic system. In Brigham City, about 1,600 residents have agreed to pay $3,000 up front, or $22.50 a month over 20 years, for the “planned” service.

Given UTOPIA’s woeful financial situation — the Utah Taxpayers Association says that UTOPIA will lose $24 million this year — the main question for city administrators should be: How do we get out of this loser dea1?

Besides Brigham City, there are 10 other Utah cities, including Layton, Tremonton and Centerville, ensnared in UTOPIA.

Because UTOPIA keeps losing money and is basically broke, these cities are being asked to pony up more and more cash. Although cities such as Brigham City might think they have an obligation to stick it out with UTOPIA, we believe non-performance and a history of consistent red ink is a valid reason to reconsider UTOPIA.

Imagine any other high-tech firm asking customers to pay for years and years without results? And what’s even worse is that Brigham City residents who signed up now have liens on their homes!

That is just plain ridiculous. It has the whiff of an inept operation. At the recent Brigham City meeting, many residents who had signed deals with UTOPIA’s sales representatives said they hadn’t realized they were signing a deal that allowed a lien on their house.

We can understand that outrage. Who would take such a dangerous risk just to get high-speed Internet? We sympathize with these people who learned the important lesson of reading the fine print.

It’s a mess for the UTOPIANS. No matter when the technology reaches far beyond the puny 15,000 or so who have it now, it won’t be much different than other high-tech options, satellite or cable, that UTOPIA communities have now or will have soon enough. And with UTOPIA’s constant money problems, everything in the future remains very iffy except the constant bills for cities and subscribers.