Centerville is Connected!

November 12th, 2012

By Mayor Ron Russell

Ron russel

Mayor Russell

Several years ago, Centerville City joined with 10 other Utah cities to form the UTOPIA fiber optic network. We were pioneers, taking on a project with unknown challenges and the promise of unlimited potential. Like the other cities, we viewed the development of true high-speed fiber-optic connectivity for our citizens as public infrastructure since our residents and businesses rely on the Internet every day and the need for fast and reliable access is essential.

Over the long haul, we expected that the UTOPIA network would improve the delivery of city services, provide an essential service to our community and give our city a competitive advantage in economic development. Until the past few months, the promise of UTOPIA was just that to Centerville—only a promise. I am happy to say, however, that the future is finally here and Centerville is connected!  The network has now been constructed in Centerville and is available to more than 90% of our residences and businesses. So far, 22% of the single family homes in our city have signed up and are part of the network and we expect that to increase to more than 40% as residents become familiar with the network and its benefits. I connected several months ago and have been delighted with the network and its dazzling speed and the best part is—I’m saving money every month.

When the UTOPIA network was first conceived, the member cities expected it would be constructed quickly and would be available right away. However, we are painfully aware of a number of missteps and unexpected problems that prevented the network from quickly being made ubiquitous as originally planned. Those problems were probably more evident in Centerville than in other UTOPIA cities. Construction of the network began in Centerville in 2007, but abruptly stopped when a federal agency failed to honor its financing commitments. The halted construction left us with stranded conduit and disappointed residents. Those disappointments are now fading away as we move on with the business of educating our residents about the availability and benefits of the network.

It has been and will continue to be a challenge to overcome past mistakes and deal with on-going efforts by some whose goal is to cause UTOPIA to fail. Based on the early successes we are enjoying in Centerville, however, I remain optimistic that we are making progress and will succeed. My neighbors who have connected are delighted with the network and the savings they enjoy. As one example, Scott Higgins recently shared his experience on the blog.

Centerville City has also connected and is enjoying the benefits. The city has reduced its telecommunication costs by 60%, while increasing speed many times over. City employees were doing downloads after hours, costing the city overtime, or even at home. Now it takes only seconds, when before programs would literally take hours or time out and have to be restarted. This is increasingly important as city functions become more automated—such as court processes that rely on the Internet and our police accessing state resources over the Internet. Our security has improved as cameras monitoring city facilities are now connected to the Internet with fiber.

UTOPIA has also been a boon for our local businesses. There were areas of the city that had no Internet access, particularly on the west side of the freeway. Some businesses cobbled together satellite-based service or relied on dial up access and could not grow. Some had access to very expensive Internet service through T1 lines and have been delighted to have the speed and reduced cost offered by the UTOPIA network. An example of the businesses that have benefitted is Digital Business Integration (DBI), a Centerville business that provides software solutions for the construction industry. DBI provides web-based services to customers all over the country and simply cannot function without fast and reliable Internet access. DBI now enjoys reliable service at twice the speed of the T1 lines over a single fiber connection at less than half the cost. The future is now stable for this growing business to remain in Centerville because it can upgrade to even faster speeds as its business grows, an option that was simply nonexistent before UTOPIA. Our Centerville businesses are now flourishing with robust UTOPIA service. We expect the availability of the UTOPIA network will be a cornerstone of future economic development as we look toward attracting businesses that can provide jobs allowing our residents to work closer to home rather than commuting each day to Salt Lake County.

The future is bright as we look forward to the benefits of the UTOPIA fiber optic network. Centerville is connected!