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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Council considering partnerships to improve city

Jul 31, 2018 01:42PM ● By Cassie Goff

UTOPIA works on an open-access network where customers can choose their providers, which inspires competition. (Dan Metcalf/Cottonwood Heights)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

Over the past few months, the Cottonwood Heights City Council has been searching for opportunities to make the city a better place to live and work. They invited many different representatives to city council meetings to present possible partnerships for the city to consider. Some of the partnerships the city is currently considering are with Action Utah and Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA). 

On June 26, Policy Director for Action Utah Carrie Butler discussed economic and environmental stewardship with the city council.

“Our organization boosts civic engagement and gives voice to the communities we work in,” said Butler.

Action Utah is a nonpartisan community engagement network that works to impact policymaking for ordinary residents. Primarily they work on issues that involve families and communities, environmental stewardship, public health and government.

One of the goals Action Utah is currently working toward is to achieve complete renewable energy by 2032. Seventy cities have set that goal all over the country.

“We are asking the municipalities to work with us and other organizations to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable resources,” explained Butler.  

She has asked many municipalities to pass a resolution supporting this goal. Salt Lake City, Moab and Park City have already passed such resolution. The ski industries, i.e., all of the ski resorts, have also shown their support.

Butler also suggested the city create a Sustainable Cottonwood Heights Committee. The committee would work collaboratively with Rocky Mountain Power for clean energy and other resources.

“Rocky Mountain Power is thrilled and willing to come discuss the availabilities and resources they have,” Butler said.

On July 10, Executive Director Roger Timmerman from UTOPIA outlined the possibility of bringing UTOPIA into the city.

UTOPIA is a fiber optic infrastructure operating on an open-access community fiber network. That means UTOPIA owns and manages the infrastructure while leasing the service lines to private internet providers who deliver the services. UTOPIA has options to provide their service to residential and businesses.

“We have one network that connects services from many different companies,” explained Timmerman. “It’s the most competitive system in the county because you can pick your provider.”

Currently, the network runs from the north corner of the state down to Las Vegas. Their services are already being provided to over 30 cities in Utah including Lindon, Murray, Payson, Perry, West Valley City, Midvale, Layton and Brigham City.

Timmerman presented many different advantages to bringing UTOPIA into the city, including cleanliness, economic development, city services and benefits for residents.

“We are the cleanest telecommunications out there,” Timmerman said. Construction for the network is primarily done with underground boring. They don’t clutter power poles or cut into roads because they go underground.    

Timmerman explained how UTOPIA can be beneficial for city services as well, by providing connectivity for city services like public Wi-Fi, utility metering and connections for UEN.

For example, the city of Orem uses the network to measure air quality. The city had a quality sensor network already in place so they were able to plug into the fiber network. Now, every resident can look online to see the air quality in their neighborhood.

If UTOPIA came into the city, every resident would be expected to benefit from competitive prices and a rising property value.

“There is an expected decreased cost of service for all residents of $27 per month, while residential property values would go up by 3.1 percent.” Timmerman said those were the average impacts when broadband providers came into an area.

Cottonwood Heights residents and businesses have already expressed interest in bringing UTOPIA into the city. Timmerman showed a map of inquiries that UTOPIA has received from many different areas within the city.  

“We are already in the city in some apartments and coming up to the border,” Timmerman said.

If the city decided to partner with UTOPIA and bring the service into the city, the process would take about two years. UTOPIA would do a feasibility study, community review and contract review before the city council would take action on a vote.