Monday, February 22, 2016

UTOPIA reconnoiters as resistance to local parcel fee halts PPP with Macquarie

Macquarie is probably dead, and that’s probably okay – Free UTOPIA!: While I wasn’t able to attend the latest UTOPIA board meeting (bit of a drive from Cedar City), I did get a summary of what was discussed during that meeting. One of the things that came up was the long-delayed Macquarie deal. For all intents and purposes, it’s most likely not going to happen. There appears to be slow action on a binding public vote and the utility fee was very unpopular (and wasn’t coming down). The board has voted to pay Macquarie what they are due and take those reports as valuable information to plan for the future with no further action.

As this blog reported last March, resistance to a utility parcel fee stalled progress on a public-private partnership between the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) and an Australian firm that invests in public infrastructure projects, Macquarie Capital Group. That resistance created a massive stumbling block to the expansion and financial future of the UTOPIA regional fiber to the premise (FTTP) that serves 11 Utah municipalities.

Now nearly a year later as the blog cited above reports, that resistance has proven fatal to the partnership. In order for it to work under the long term financial plan prepared by Macquarie, the parcel fee was a necessary component of the partnership given that a public-private partnership by definition requires the contribution of public financial resources. No public contribution means no partnership, leaving the private partner like a single hand clapping.

This development is yet another example of the lack of adequate funding mechanisms at the state and local government level to ensure the construction of FTTP telecom infrastructure serving all American homes, businesses, and public institutions. The situation calls for an aggressive federal public works program to construct this needed infrastructure for the 21st century as I propose in my recently issued eBook Service Unavailable: America’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis.

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