iProvo: Fiber Optic for a City of 100,000

Provo, Utah, a city of more than 105,000 has owned its own power plant since 1940 (see Provo Mayor’s message: November 2000). In 2000, Mayor Lewis Billings began discussions that resulted in decisions to deploy a city-wide fiber optic network called iProvo.

The city owns this network, but leases it to companies who will provide telecommunication services to Provo residents and businesses.

Larry Lessig would be pleased. He slammed the private sector in a Wired magazine article last year for failing to deliver broadband services quickly enough in the U.S. This nation has fallen from 1st place to 13th place in broadband deployment in the last few years.

Today I checked the map to see when my neighborhood will get the services. We are in one of the phase IV sections, so service will get here in July 2005. The entire city will be finished by mid-2006. iProvo claims speeds that are 100 times faster than cable and 250 times faster than DSL. I can’t wait. I’ve had high speed internet since I bought a DirecPC satellite dish in the fall of 1995, but I’ve never had speeds this fast, even at work.

Novell is making 25,000 sq. ft of space available in one of its buildings for an incubator of open source software companies. All the businesses who locate there will be hooked into the iProvo fiber network, given them tremendous bandwidth at a very reasonable price.

Meanwhile, UTOPIA, the largest municipal fiber optic network in the country is now available in Orem and will soon be available in 14 other cities who voted to participate in this project.

It’s nice to live in such a forward looking state. First the Utah pioneers developed irrigation techniques in 1847 so they could raise crops, even in a desert.

In the late 20th century we invented computer graphics at the U. of U. (Evans and Sutherland), digital audio (Tom Stockham), word processing (WordPerfect), and computer networking (Novell.) We also lead the nation in entrepreneurship, with more Inc. 500 companies per capita than any other state.

Now the UTOPIA project and iProvo will help ensure that we maintain an edge in innovation.

Thanks Mayor Billings and whoever championed UTOPIA. With our fastest internet speed, highest birth rate, and the biggest population under 18, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with for generations.

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  1. Paul Venturella

    I work for Provo on the iProvo project. They are currently accepting proposals from other companies that wish to offer service and there should be choice and competition on the network in the very near future. The reason for the push to triple play (voice, video, data) is that the cost to the city (capital cost at the home)is the same for a customer that generates revenue from a single service as for one that takes all three services and generates much more revenue. As we want the City to run this like a business…it’s a business decision to discourage single service customers. Wholesale and retail pricing are set with this in mind. The network may not benefit from providing 1 service (or 2) to many customers and it may benefit more from providing 3 services to a much smaller group.

  2. Nathan Sheranian


    I am Kristen Lingam’s husband, and you may or may not know that we just bought a townhome and are in need of getting internet access. i googled iprovo and found this 2-year-old post, which you sound quite optimistic about the project. the reason i am posting is to ask you, is iprovo all it was hyped up to be? or are there better options for cable/internet/phone out there? i have heard that some people have had unsavory experiences with it, and i would like to know your opinion. i know you are a tech guru, so i thought i would just go right to the source..

    thanks for your input.


    Nathan Sheranian

  3. Jason Carr

    Though I generally don’t like it when the government does things, I think that iProvo was a good move. I feel ill when I consider how horrifyingly slow we’ve been with the move to broadband in this country (and that it’s so over-priced when we get it). I get downright angry when I see those commercials for dial-up that allows you to “surf up to 5x faster”. What a farce. I will have a small party the day that PeoplePC goes out of business. And that’s my bitter, internet junky, two cents.

  4. Neal Harmon

    Good article Lawrence, but I’m wondering if iProvo really increases the competition.

    If the community is not purchasing the broadband at the price it is, how does the government expect the demand to appear at an even higher price (albeit faster Internet speeds) when many in the community are surviving with their dial up?

    I see the argument for it if we consider Internet a public good like roads, but I’m more concerned that Provo expects to finance this service through paying customers. They haven’t snagged me and I’m a “high speed user.” My Vonage, Comcast combination (about $68 per month) blows their least expensive plan out of the water ($89) since I have no interest in cable television. I realize that the iProvo Internet is faster and better, but for at home use, Comcast works great and I don’t care about the extra speed when it costs me another $20 per month. iProvo IS NOT COMPETITION FOR MY NEEDS. Won’t others feel like me about this? From what I understand, iProvo needs 30 percent of the entire city using their service to pay for it. With the current usage in the city, I’m just concerned I’ll be paying the bill for iProvo even if I don’t ever decide to use it.

    So, my final question is, why is it a good thing for the local government to push iProvo when the private sector hasn’t demanded it?

    I’d like a few reasons other than it’s super-fast and other tech talk. Is it really going to boost the amount of tech business in Provo and raise more money in taxes to pay for it? Historical examples? I’m uninformed and still open on this topic. I’m just not yet convinced iProvo is the best thing for Provo.

    But, then again, it doesn’t really matter, the decision is made. I might as well just look for other ways I can use it even if it won’t have my home Internet use. Maybe it will be cheaper to set up a data center in Provo?

  5. Neal Harmon

    Thanks. I went to iProvo.net and called the phone number on pricing and it listed the accounts. Thanks for the link to HomeNet. I didn’t know about that site. Way better deal. I’ll switch as soon as it’s here. Thanks Jason.

  6. Jason Carr

    Where did you find that $89 price? The only prices I could find were from HomeNet, an iProvo partner. They offer separate plans for phone, internet and cable. Internet prices range from $39.99 for a 1.5Mbs connection to $59.99 for 10Mbs. For me, the cheapest plan is just a few dollars more than what I currently pay for a 512kbs connection. I would switch in a second. Hopefully other providers will sign on to use the network and bring that price down even further.

  7. Neal Harmon

    I should add to my comment that when I called into iProvo in January, I was informed that I could only get all three bundled together. I thought that was ridiculous if they required people to use all the services. I’m glad to hear that it’s both competitive and targeted at people’s needs.

  8. Jason Carr

    I am too. I was worried there for a bit. A combo package might be good for some, but I’d be pretty unhappy if that was the only option.

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