LAYTON – Though the first agreement has been signed, there’s a lot more work to do before UTOPIA’s partnership with the Australian investment group is finalized.
The fiber-optic network signed a preliminary development agreement with Macquarie Capital Group, a Sydney-based investment firm looking to ensure build-out on the network and then lease it for the next 30 years. The agreement, however, is only the first step in the potential partnership, and the company is currently conducting feasibility studies of both UTOPIA and the Utah market.
“The agreement has a whole bunch of off-ramps for both parties,” said Layton City Attorney Gary Crane, who has been working on the agreement deal. “It’s kind of like a dating period. You get to go out and see if you like each other.”
In addition to an engineering and feasibility study, Macquarie will also be conducting polls to determine whether the Utah market would take advantage of the network.
“They want to know how savvy Utah is in the use of technology,” Crane said. “Their thought now is that Utah has a very educated population.”
He added that Google’s involvement in Provo serves as evidence of this savvy. The company took over the city fiber optic network built by Provo.
“Google analyzes the market very carefully,” he said.
Macquarie is also looking at the specific dollar amount that would be required to build out the network. Current estimates place the total at $300 million, but analysis would need to be done before the amount could be finalized.
Though the participating cities would not be responsible for repaying the investment money, they would still be responsible for paying off their original UTOPIA-related debts. Still, build-out is a vital step to ensuring the network’s success.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from carriers who would want to ride the network if it was in the ground,” said Crane.
Beyond that, he feels the partnership would help ensure the dream that inspired UTOPIA in the first place.
“It would still be an open infrastructure network, just like we’ve always wanted,” he said. “For the 11 cities, it’s a great day.”
All about Macquarie:
• The company employs 13,900 people in 28 countries.
• They describe themselves as a “a global provider of banking, financial, advisory, investment and funds management services”