Drew Clark: Bringing fiber optics to all of Wasatch Front is possible

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Optic cable connected to a single patch panel.

Many business models have been disrupted by the internet. The next incumbent industry being challenged includes the old-style cable and telecom companies. They do everything they can to throw mud on the open-access fiber-optic infrastructure — including UTOPIA — that some of us enjoy along the Wasatch Front.

Don’t fall for it. The future is brighter than the negativism of these companies and their allies in the Utah Taxpayers Association. That negativism leads to flawed studies like that from the University of Pennsylvania, which are easily rebutted by Next Century Cities and the Coalition for Local Internet Choice.

But one has to take a moment to understand why Utahns, and everyone in the country, want the opportunity for gigabit broadband at better prices.

Some utilities, like water, are pretty easy to understand. A city or a water conservancy district taps it at the source, purifies it and sells to citizens through a city’s water mains and pipes. People accept that water is the city’s responsibility.

Other utilities, like fiber-optic infrastructure or electricity, are more complicated. Sometimes services are provided by a private company, sometimes by a municipality. Many people ask why the public is involved at all.

The answer is this: City governments control their rights of way. They are never going to stop doing that.

Because cities are the guardians of their rights of way, they need to set rules that enable broadband competition and lower prices. For example, no one ever looks at the budget for street construction, repair and maintenance and asks why it isn’t a profit center.

Making sure the public roads are open to business and private economic activity is the very “business” of cities.

That’s the same way we should think about the information highways and byways. Fiber utilities, whether run by a city or by a public-private partnership, enable competition from many private companies. That includes advanced services such as telemedicine and enabling…

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