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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Council evaluates fiber internet options as Century Link presents their plan

Jun 30, 2022 08:35PM ● By Cassie Goff

With Comcast internet services, this map was an amalgamation of shades of blue, indicating 1 gig speeds. With Quantum Fiber connections, current high speed internet options are shown in red. (Photo courtesy of Jim Farr/Lumen)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

As the Cottonwood Heights City Council continues their pursuit of finding a worthy contender to bring fiber internet to its residents, they met with another namesake whose reputation precedes them.

Presenting in front of the council on May 17, Century Link’s (Utah) Government Affairs Director Max Backlund and Manager of Consumer Investment Strategy Jim Farr boasted their rankings for the chance to win over the city’s populace.  

Backlund and Farr first clarified their allegiance. Century Link will be no more, as their realm is divided and established as two different domains: Quantum and Lumen.

Quantum Fiber will provide and maintain fiber services for individual consumers at home or with small businesses, while Lumen Technologies will provide services more broadly for government, networking and cloud solutions.

“Much of the existing fiber still marketed under the Century Link brand will eventually be under Quantum Fiber,” Backlund said.

Currently, that existing network consists of 2.8 million living units. Quantum Fiber plans to continue expanding their network, estimating to be providing service to between 1.5 million and 2 million home units by the end of the year. So far in Utah, their biggest development was in Daybreak.

“We may go underground with new developments, but they have to have an agreement with us,” Backlund said and explained that’s one of the only instances where they may choose to utilize micro-trenching.

Quantum Fiber plans to build new fiber-to-home locations and services utilizing two different new technologies, currently still in development. Trying to avoid burrowing and micro-trenching, Quantum Fiber’s infrastructure will continue to work with rights-of-ways of existing utility lines.

“The thing about the internet is you’re only as fast as the weakest link,” Backlund said. “We have to monitor traffic and add additional capacity on the back end.”

They are beginning to utilize XGS-PON technology, with backing from some federal grant programs. Backlund explained the X in XGS is not the English alphabetical letter, but the Roman numeral, standing for 10-gigabyte (per second) technology.

Quantum Fiber advertises their services at $65 per month with unlimited data for the average household. Mayor Mike Weichers asked if a modem for the household was included in that monthly cost. Backland specified that the modem was indeed an extra charge, but there were frequent offerings to eliminate that charge.

In recognizing some of the challenges of the current landscape, Backlund and Farr explained some of the different low-income assistance programs Quantum Fiber participates in. Most notably is a program where fixed-income customers can qualify for a $30 per month benefit. They enticed some mystery by mentioning there may be current neighborhood pockets being underserved within Cottonwood Heights.

Backlund and Farr directed the council’s attention to the national standard for measuring internet speeds. On topographical maps, the FCC records the highest speeds available per equally measured block. Consumers can’t discover the highest speeds for their individual addresses with this metric. However, the FCC is moving toward reporting top speeds per individual address.

“Providers today report census blocks from the FCC,” Farr said.

While projecting a color-coded heat map of the city, based on the FCC’s data, Councilmember Doug Peterson noticed a small area absent of any color within his district. “That’s where I live.”

Backlund asked which service provider he utilized at home and what his internet speeds were like. 

“My speed on Century Link is just above…slow,” Peterson said with a laugh.

“The whole city has one gig available based on block mapping from the FCC’s website, mainly through Comcast,” Backlund said.

Backlund and Farr slightly winced at mention of their most notable adversary. “We are in a very competitive environment. They are capable competitors.”

Weichers explained how the council would be considering all available suitors before declaring a victor, mentioning how they had already granted audience to Google Fiber and Utopia.

“We don’t support the Utopia model,” Backlund said. “In my mind, it’s different flavors of Kool-Aid in the same network.”

Backlund and Farr closed their presentation by stating, “We are working toward complete control over our network. We have more control and flexibility in our model.”