At this stage, after years of planning, 11 towns are expected to backstop the debt to build the infrastructure, probably by issuing bonds, and another three are expected to play nonfinancing roles. Four others have withdrawn from the project. Eventually, the projects planners expect the network to generate surplus revenue for participating cities. Contracts have been awarded to Riverstone Networks Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., to provide the networks core electronics, including Ethernet switches, and to Allied Telesyn Inc., in Bothell, Wash., for access portals. Tyco Electronics, a Harrisburg, Pa., division of Tyco International Ltd., will provide fiber management.Not everyone is excited about the prospect of local governments building their own fiber networks. Incumbent local telephone companies have lobbied in some regions to have such initiatives defeated. Qwest Communications Inc. opposes UTOPIA. A U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year ruled that it is up to state governments to determine whether they will regulate municipalities that build their own networks. One company eager to assist municipalities in deploying broadband networks is Amedia Networks Inc., of Holmdel, N.J., which builds a pure IP-based access platform for fiber-to-the-premises networks based on ESON (Ethernet Switched Optical Network) technology. The technology, based on a licensing agreement with Lucent Technologies Inc., carries up to 100M bps of bandwidth per subscriber to deliver applications such as high-speed Internet, HDTV, video and VOIP (voice over IP). Amedias technology is designed to make it easy for service providers to offer tiered rates and allot bandwidth. Check out eWEEK.coms Infrastructure Center at http://infrastructure.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.
Unlike some municipalities building similar networks in other parts of the country, UTOPIA towns will not become service providers themselves. Instead, they will sell the bandwidth wholesale to service providers. AT&T Corp. has signed up to be the first to test the system.