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Paul Morris, Executive Director, UTOPIA

Paul Morris, Executive Director, UTOPIA

The Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA), which has been led by Paul Morris since its inception, provides ultra high-speed broadband service to 14 Utah cities. The cities originally came together after state legislation passed preventing municipalities from offering telecommunications services. A provision in that law, however, left an option for municipalities to wholesale such services.

As the cities grappled with how to approach the issue, Paul Morris, who was then the city attorney for West Valley, Utah, suggested the communities work together. By doing so, the cities established a carrier-class network. The consortium of cities, which officially came together to form UTOPIA in 2002, established a fiber-optic network capable of 100 Mbps for residents, and 1 Gbps for businesses.

The network, which is still being rolled out, is producing a number of benefits, including spurring economic development and bridging the digital divide. Providers such as AT&T, MSTAR and others are already using the UTOPIA MetroNet to provide voice, data, video and other services in the communities where rollout is complete.

"Just for my Internet alone," Morris said, "I have the equivalent of 10 T1 lines in my house for about $40 a month."

With such a large amount of bandwidth for every resident and business, the network has left some room for creativity. Morris said he spends a decent amount of time working with vendors that want to develop new applications, such as high-quality video conferencing. He said that in UTOPIA cities, that notion is realistic for home users as well as businesses, and that he often forgoes the phone when talking to distant family members, opting to speak to them face-to-face.

"The whole point of UTOPIA is to make a difference in our community," he said. "It's to enable economic development and improve the quality of life. So what do you do with that kind of bandwidth?"

With the speed and quality of service now offered to all UTOPIA cities' residents and businesses, the possibilities are endless.