Copies Unlimited, located in a West Valley City, Utah, strip mall, is not in the service territory of DSL or cable modem providers. Dial-up service is too slow to transmit the files Rhett Sears creates, and satellite service is too expensive. So what data delivery method is available to Sears?
“The car,” said owner and operator Sears. “Ill drive clear across town to get jobs. Whatever it takes to keep customers.”
Sears said he estimates that he spends, on average, an hour and a half a day driving to pick up CDs and deliver proofs to customers. “Every job requires four trips when it really should require one,” he said.
Last month, West Valley City was one of 11 Utah communities to pledge funds to support the construction of a network to prompt more broadband service options for small businesses and homes.
Local governments across the country are building or planning fiber networks to support alternatives to the limited high-speed-service choices available today, particularly in rural areas. The Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, or UTOPIA, project is the largest network infrastructure initiative of its kind. The aim of the project is to create an all-fiber infrastructure that will operate as an open, wholesale network for providers to offer retail services to users.
UTOPIAs proponents hope to begin construction near the end of the summer, said Jeff Fishburn, chief technology officer at DynamicCity MetroNet Advisors, a consulting company in Lindon, Utah, that is overseeing the projects design and deployment. It will take about three more years before the network reaches all participating towns.
“The term city is probably a kind way to represent some of these communities,” Fishburn said, adding that some of the towns in UTOPIA have only a few thousand users. Ten to 20 percent of the potential subscribers described in the UTOPIA business plan are small businesses.
“[Local businesses] feel like theyve been at the end of a toll road. Theres not a whole lot of choice out there,” Fishburn said. “Many communities out there feel incredibly underserved.”
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 Four others have withdrawn from the project.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.
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.
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.
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