Local telephone companies may compete here for the first time if City Council members approve a franchise request from a Washington state-based telecommunications firm to begin installing fiber optic cable throughout the city.
With last week's announcement from the state's Public Service Commission authorizing Electric Lightwave Inc., or ELI, to offer Utah consumers a choice of local telephone providers, Pleasant Grove officials could further grant the utility the legal means of going head-to-head with US WEST Communications.ELI Sales Manager Bob Vukich recently appeared before the council, requesting the franchise rights to begin preliminary work for a Pleasant Grove exchange, which would eventually draw into - or from - Orem and Provo.
"We're hoping to get into Provo and Orem, and we'd be looking at long-term building here through your city," Vukich said. "Our fiber optics utilities last for a minimum of 50 years in a city's infrastructure."
ELI currently provides basic phone service in Seattle, Phoenix, Sacramento and Salt Lake City, and Vukich said the company will be moving into Ogden next year.
Expected to offer basic telephone service in 16 or more exchange cities in Utah, ELI has primarily provided business customers with access to long-distance carriers in Salt Lake. But now the company wants to provide residential services to customers in northern Utah County.
Earlier this year, US WEST spokesman Duane L. Cooke said if competitors are allowed to enter US WEST's marketplace and pick and choose from its most profitable customers, US WEST would then have to increase costs for the remaining customers, in particular rural and residential customers.
Vukich said ELI will provide substantial savings to customers and that currently, the company offers services for 20 percent less than US WEST in Washington.
ELI spent more than $1 million laying telephone and data-transfer fiber optic cable along Salt Lake City streets in 1993 and filed a request with the Utah Public Service Commission last October to compete for local phone service.
Now, with last week's decision from the commission, ELI will compete on a range of telecommunications services, including local calls, call waiting, data transfer and video services.
Vukich told council members the result of the competition should be lower prices, while enhancing choices and maintaining high-quality telecommunications services.
While ELI will install fiber optic cable, it can't connect the cable to individual homes. In order to connect between the "backbone" cables and the subscribers, Vukich said ELI may use existing US WEST telephone poles or work out an agreement with Northstar Cable TV to route along with their cables.
Vukich said it will take ELI several months to complete contracts to interlink with US WEST.
In Salt Lake City, ELI has right-of-way agreements with Questar, where high-speed telecommunications lines run along side gas line rights-of-way. Vukich said ELI is also working on an agreement with Utah Power to allow its connections to be installed on power poles.
The City Council will discuss the request and make a decision later.