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WEST POINT — West Point in Davis County is the latest in a group of 14 Utah cities to jump on the fiber bandwagon and welcome the fastest internet in the country via UTOPIA Fiber.
UTOPIA Fiber started as a group of 11 local cities that joined together in 2004 to bring fiber internet to residences and businesses in their areas. The group lays down fiber optic cables then leases the infrastructure to local internet service providers so residents can choose from a variety of options.
Many residents, especially those in more rural areas, don’t normally have access to more than one or two internet service providers.
And that lack of choice is a major reason why West Point decided to bring fiber internet to the city, said city manager Kyle Laws. Residents have been frustrated with their limited options and responded enthusiastically to a survey the city released to gauge interest in fiber internet.
Bringing in fiber will also help West Point prepare for what Laws believes is inevitable growth. He expects the city’s population to grow from where it currently sits at 11,000 residents to nearly 30,000 or 40,000 in the next 20 years.
But West Point residents won’t have to wait that long to access faster internet. By 2020, all households in the city will be able to access up to 10-gigabit internet speeds, while all businesses will be able to access up to 100-gigabit internet speeds — if they want it.
Utah’s average internet speed is just over 50 megabits, according to Broadband Now, making 10 gigabits 200 times faster than Utah’s average.
But most residents don’t sign up for 10 gigabits, according to UTOPIA’s executive director Roger Timmerman, who noted that most families don’t need that kind of speed. About half sign up for 250 megabits, and the other half sign up for 1-gigabit speeds — still 20 times faster than Utah’s average.
In fact, only about 30% of Utahns have access to 1-gigabit speeds, while only about 33% have access to fiber-optic service, according to Broadband Now.
West Point became part of that percentage when the city contracted with UTOPIA to lay down fiber-optic cables. But the project shouldn’t cost the city a dime — if enough people subscribe.
UTOPIA financed the $7.2 million project with a bond, and residents who subscribe will pay about $65 for 250-megabit internet speed. About $35 will go to the internet service provider they choose, and $30 will go to UTOPIA to recoup the cost. There won't be any upfront costs, install fees or taxes owed.
The average cost for 100-megabit speed is about $50 a month.
If not enough residents subscribe to recoup the cost, the city will owe UTOPIA money, Laws explained. About 1,200 households and businesses (or approximately a third of the city) need to subscribe to cover the cost, he added — though the city manager believes that's very possible after seeing such high interest among residents.
A few residents pushed back, Laws added, noting that the difficulties UTOPIA’s had in the past with other cities may have initially tainted the group’s reputation. But most residents support the project once they learn of West Point’s contract with the group.
And the infrastructure in West Point will be built pretty quickly in comparison to some other areas. In fact, the east of the city should be able to start subscribing to fiber internet in a few months, according to Laws.
UTOPIA has currently installed fiber optic cables in all of Brigham City, Centerville, Layton, Lindon, Perry, Tremonton and Woodland Hills — though they're planning to continue doing so as the cities expand. Construction is still underway in Murray, West Valley City, Midvale, Orem, Morgan, Payson and West Point.
By the time the group is done building all the infrastructure, Timmerman believes UTOPIA will have about 170,000 potential subscribers, though that number is a moving target. Currently, there are 100,000 residents or businesses that can subscribe, and 27,000 of those have already done so.