Google Fiber likes Salt Lake, Utopia not so much

26 March 2015 by Steve Blum
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No room on the Google bus.

Google Fiber’s Utah expansion appears limited to Salt Lake City and, maybe, some surrounding areas. In its announcement and press event on Wednesday, the Google team talked about “metro area—Salt Lake City”, but the emphasis was on the city proper.

There’s also no prospect, at this point, for Google to step in and rescue the Utopia municipal fiber system, as it did in Provo. Six of the eleven cities in the consortium want to move ahead with a refinancing deal proposed by Macquarie Capital, but no promises have been made yet and final decisions are still months away.

One of the cities that opted out, Orem, is apparently feeling pressure to change its mind. According to a story in the Orem Daily Herald, some see a connection between the opt-out and the Utopia board’s reluctance to expand…

Councilwoman Margaret Black posed the question that most council members were thinking.

“Are we getting the short end of the stick because we opted out of Macquarie?” asked Black, referring to Macquarie Capital Group, the investment company looking to negotiate a contract with UTOPIA for buildout of the fiber network.

“There is a concern that Orem is unpredictable and not easy to work with,” [city manager Jamie] Davidson said. “It’s concerning to me to see new options entering the market with a stranded investment for the future.”

Google also has a track record of backing away from cities with stroppy local officials, and it’s hard to imagine that it would want to jump into the middle of the bickering going on between Utopia members.