The Pioneering Spirit

July 23rd, 2012

In 1847, 165 years ago, the first pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley with the intention of settling in what would become Utah. Their arrival was the culmination of an arduous journey. They overcome numerous hardships along the way (I can’t help thinking about the lack of air conditioning. I am such a wimp), leaving behind (relatively) comfortable homes and, in many cases, family. During their trek, many also lost loved ones who had to be buried alongside the path.

Utah’s pioneer heritage is a big deal in these parts. Most people probably don’t know the day Utah became a state (January 4th), but most—even new residents—know what July 24th represents, and it is a state holiday.

America (and the rest of the world) has plenty of “pioneers,” of course, and not just the sort who are associated with covered wagons. We justly celebrate pioneers in all fields for their efforts to break down barriers and explore new territories—academically, technologically (Thomas Edison), scientifically (where to start? Newton…Pasteur…Einstein), and even athletically (Roger Bannister comes to mind; Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson are two of my heroes), musically (The Beatles, anyone? Jimi Hendrix?) and more.

For those of us in the “tech” sector, some industry pioneers have become global icons: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreessen, Alan Turing, Gordon Moore, and the list goes on.

UTOPIA is pioneering an open access infrastructure network in Utah, using an “interlocal” public model to bring high-capacity fiber to our member cities. We are breaking down the barriers of the slow, expensive, monopolistic, and customer-service challenged incumbents; and exploring the new territories of open access (still rare in the U.S.), and giving our subscribers numerous reasons to follow us on this path.

Which pioneer(s) (in any category) do you most admire?