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City Broadband in Provo UT and Beyond.

iprovo logo

Provo Fiber Network’s Original Logo

Roughly ten years ago, Provo Mayor Lewis Billings along with the municipal council embarked on a fairly ambitious goal of connecting every resident to a new technology called fiber optics. The network began as a 300-home test project with a Gigabit backbone.

The goal of adding a successful fiber service to the city’s portfolio of utilities was never realized, but due to the complete build out of the network, most of the city’s residences were fiber capable of being connected to the city network and realizing high speed internet.

Due to a number of challenges, the city ended up selling the network to Broadweave in 2008. Due to various problems, Broadweave was then acquired by Veracity which attempted to operate the network, but had problems making payments on it.

Broadweave bought iprovo

Broadweave Networks Logo

That’s where I came into the picture along with my two council colleagues Laura Cabanilla and Rick Healey when we found ourselves newly elected in 2009 with a fairly serious decision to be made.

What to do with the fiber network? Veracity had approached us asking us to finance the transfer of the network to their complete ownership with many of the same challenges remaining unresolved, we could shut it down, or we could try to find another company to run the network. Provo was on the hook for the payments on the fiber network, and default was not an option. If we defaulted on the loans taken out, our sales tax would be seized as collateral.

The seven members of the council wrestled with the challenge, and along with Mayor John Curtis decided to lease the network to Veracity on a temporary basis while we continued to search for a better solution. This was a difficult solution, and one which lead to a small monthly cost being added to the utility bills of every Provo resident. During the discussion of what to do with the network, I asked that whatever the fiber network’s fate, we require that it provide a measurable service to every Provo resident asked to incur this charge.

This struggle continued…for more than a year. I recall personally calling various internet service providers (ISPs) and making a plea that they at least consider looking at our network. I was even able to convince a company to make the journey out to our city to survey our network. As the months passed, I recall meeting with potential ISPs as well as our stakeholder group to discuss the future of our network. We kept running into the same problem, that of finding a stakeholder willing to partner with the city and foot the sizable cost of upgrading and maintaining the network.

Since then we have actively worked with and met with a number of companies to discuss the unique structure of the Provo Fiber network and look for creative options for the future of our municipal broadband. A solution is certainly out there and I believe the city will overcome the obstacles I mentioned here as we near finding it.

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