Bob has many ideas, but wants to hear yours.

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Utopia

7/10/2013

Utopia was a poorly conceived enterprise with little to no oversight. I believe it may have been entered into with good intentions but it was poorly executed, in the extreme.

With my technology experience, i think it is important to understand a little bit about Utopia and how we got into this mess. To understand these problems one must go back several years. At the time Internet speeds were not what they are today and advanced internet technology was slow in coming to our city. Several cities, including Provo, American Fork and others decided that it was in their best interest to build out an information infrastructure such as Utopia or iProvo. Whether or not it was a good idea is not important at this time, rather we need to understand the process.

This idea was spawned by several desires, not the least of which was to increase the attractiveness of Orem to businesses. This is evident in the way the service was rolled out to businesses first. It is also evident today in the increased interest in doing business in Provo instead of Orem since Google came to that city. Good Internet services are important to business, and at the time there really wasn't an economical way to provide that to small business.

Now for the problem.

First comes the question if the city should have entered into the enterprise at all and if so, should it have come to a city wide vote? Next, Utopia as a venture really didn't have any business plan and as a city we provided no real oversight. We trusted that they knew what they were doing. It is my belief that it was rolled out in a hap-hazard fashion that made no real sense. For example, as a group of neighbors we have tried to get service for several (since the start actually) years. Now the neighborhood has changed and people have moved. More importantly technology has progressed. The point here though is we wanted the service and could not get it and now it isn't as important. We have other alternatives. That said, there are still limitations with the current offerings out there.

As noted on the city website, the state legislature website and other places, the Utopia service has not sold as projected. Because of the way this was set up, we are holding the bag as the infrastructure is not built and financially struggles. We have spent a lot of money for a half completed (some might say broken) system that is aging and is no longer as competitive as it once was.

What to do about it?

That is indeed the question. First we should evaluate why we are here once again. Lack of oversight, lack of foresight (we didn't put checks, controls nor appropriate responsibility where it was needed), and this wasn't noticed until our hindsight reveled it to some of us. But is it too late to salvage this? It depends. It depends on what avenues are still left to us.

Just like when finds oneself with an old cell phone and a long service contract, we need to decide if we should trash the plan and pay the penalty, or stay with the contract until we can find something better. That is the situation we find ourselves in with regards to Utopia.

Right or wrong, we are now in the middle of a technology project. We have made commitments and how we handle them is one of the differences in the candidates this year for city council. I think we all realize there are challenges and anyone can complain and point to the problem. What we need is someone with answers. Someone who can fix this. Someone who truly understands the issues, will take the time to look at ALL the options, partner as appropriate, and decide how it is best to proceed. "Just Get Out" is, in my mind, a simple reaction to a complex issue.

At present, some options are limited. For example, because of where this currently stands, we are not very attractive to a business such as Google to partner with. If we hope to partner with someone like Google, we need to handle this responsibly. We need to look at ALL the options.