The problems of WorldComm and the collapse of Adelphia lead one to believe that the capital markets for broadband are going to be out of sorts for some time. What's a techie living outside the current broadband footprint to do?
One answer may be projects like the Utopia project being undertaken by a number of Utah cities and towns. Utopia is an interlocal agency (a government agency in Utah formed by the member governments and governed by an MOU) that is undertaking the infrastructure piece of the broadband puzzle and hoping to attract companies to provide services (like ISP services, video on demand, and even mundane things like meter reading) on the infrastructure they create.
The fact of the matter is that even when the capital markets improve, there will be more attractive places to build out broadband infrastructure than small (and even mid-sized) towns in Utah. Utopia is an answer to that problem.
I'm sure some will object that government ought not to be doing this. Certainly some will say "if it doesn't make sense for private industry, why should government do it?" I have a few responses:
- Government has access to different sources of capital than private industry and in many cases, something can make sense, from a capital standpoint, for government that doesn't make sense for a private business. The required rates of return can be much lower, for example.
- Government has different motivations than private business do. Governments are about managing a society, not tuning a profit, and so public policy issues may make this a valid project for government to tackle.
- Governments have been in the infrastructure business for a long time.
Utopia certainly has a long way to go before the dream is reality, but I'm happy and grateful to see someone trying.