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Spinning its Wheels: An Analysis of Lessons Learned from iProvo’s First 18 Months of Municipal Broadband

December 1, 2006

After only two years, the municipal broadband system in Provo, Utah has begun to show the pattern seen in other cities that have mounted expensive fiber optic networking projects.

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After only two years, the municipal broadband system in Provo, Utah has begun to show the pattern seen in other cities that have mounted expensive fiber optic networking projects. With less than half the subscribers expected by this date, iProvo, the $39.5 million system launched in July 2004, has had to request $1 million in additional funds from the Provo’s electric utility to meet its costs.

The request for additional funding comes after a troubled first eighteen months of operation marked by slow growth and a rocky relationship with a retail partner that came to an abrupt end during a heated mayoral campaign. The sole bright spot is that iProvo construction has stayed on schedule. The iProvo web site reports that all eight construction phases were completed by the initial July 2006 deadline.

iProvo is set up as a city-owned fiber optic network that wholesales capacity to retail service providers. The unit operates under the administration of the Telecommunications Division of Provo City’s Energy Department. Construction on the iProvo network began in July 2004. As of December 1, 2005, fiber optic connections were available to more than half of Provo’s approximately 27,000 residences and 4,100 small businesses, making it the largest municipal broadband system in the United States to date, according to Broadband Business Forecast, an industry newsletter.1 Local newspaper reports place the subscriber total at 7,700 as of October 2006. iProvo also owns and operates a cable television distribution facility.

Article Tags
InfoTech & Telecom
Author
Steven Titch is a policy analyst focusing on telecommunications, Internet and information technology. He is also a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
titch@experteditorial.net @stevetitch