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The Kaysville fiber project is a low-risk investment for the future

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On Thursday, Aug. 6, Kaysville will be referring the fiber project to the November ballot. This will give residents a voice as to whether the city should facilitate a municipal open fiber network in Kaysville. 

On Aug. 1, 2020, the Deseret News published an opinion piece by Steve Hiatt calling Kaysville Fiber “overly risky and costly.” I have a lot of respect for Hiatt, but as he pointed out, on this subject we agree to disagree.  

Along with many other cities in Utah and across the country (over 330 municipal networks nationwide), Kaysville residents are realizing the need for access to affordable, reliable internet connectivity. It has become an essential part of our lives. COVID-19 has further emphasized this need with many of us working from home, doing remote learning and reaching our data caps way too easily. 

The Kaysville Fiber project has been in the design and development process for more than two years. In 2019, many citizens became involved and communicated what they wanted to see in the project. The City Council decided to redesign the project based upon resident input and communicate with transparency the details of the project. In early 2020, the city published a timeline for the new Kaysville Fiber project that is built on four key principles: 1) I get to vote, 2) I only pay if I want it, 3) I know what it will cost and 4) available to all. Many households are currently not able to get high-speed internet services to their homes or have very limited options.

Hiatt only referenced one source of data, a Penn Law study that has been refuted. Interestingly, one of the sponsors of the Penn Law Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition is Comcast-NBC. Big companies fighting municipal fiber projects is not new and is being felt right here in Kaysville with Mr. Hiatt’s own connections to Comcast (he called me and the rest of the City Council to indicate he is consulting for Comcast’s lobbyist firm). Other reliable studies I would recommend looking at are from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and Deloitte Communications.

Hiatt also says “an accurate picture of the overall risk to the city” was not provided. Let’s address that statement.

What is the risk? Since the new Kaysville Fiber project is a subscriber model (meaning only those who subscribe to service pay for the costs associated with the network), the key risk is take rate (how many people subscribe). So let’s stop with opinion and move to facts. For the project to move forward, more than 50% of residents must vote “yes.” The subscriber scenarios needed for the project to be self-sustaining are below 50%. So why would getting more than 50% at the ballot mean this project is a “risky venture”?

Kaysville is proposing to build a fiber network for just under $21 million. This cost is based on a proposal by a world leader in fiber optics, Corning, which has designed and delivered fiber networks around the world. This fiber network will be available to every home, business, school and church within the city — no one left out.

Kaysville will simply own the infrastructure and will not be providing services.  As an open network, any qualified Internet Service Provider may offer services. We will keep the money we are already paying for internet services local. Additionally, Kaysville has contracted out the operations and maintenance of the network to a local company, Connext, as it has the experience and expertise to perform this function. Kaysville is not directly competing with the private sector but facilitating additional competition from the private sector.

It is unfortunate that fear is used to sway voters in elections rather than fact. We hope that every Kaysville resident will take the time to learn about the fiber project and make a decision based upon fact and not fear or opinion. More details are available at www.newkaysvillefiber.com. My own estimates are that residents collectively will save $20 million to $100 million over the next 30 years (while the project pays for itself). 

The Kaysville Fiber project is a solid investment that will benefit Kaysville for decades to come and the low risk is worth the effort. Kaysville, let’s seize this opportunity to invest in our future.

Andre Lortz is a Kaysville resident currently serving on the City Council and has served on the Kaysville Fiber project for two years. He was the chief financial officer for Flying J, Big West Oil and Maverik. He currently works as the executive vice president of innovation for Maverik.