Macquarie Capital chases P3 for Utah fiber optic network
UTOPIA is a fiber-optic grid managed by 11 cities in the state of Utah. The project aims to be an economic-development tool to deliver internet access at speeds well above those widely available to residential and business customers through private companies such as Comcast or CenturyLink.
The cities are the following: Brigham City, Centerville, Layton, Lindon, Perry, Midvale, Murray, Orem, Payson, Tremonton, and West Valley City.
Currently the project is partially built and the cities have up to US$500 million in bond debt with not enough cash flow to pay it off. Its customer base is currently of 11,370 residents and businesses, which is less than a tenth of its potential reach.
Macquarie's proposal involves the completion of the project under a 30-year contract to operate and upgrade the fiber optic network. Macquarie proposes to invest its own funds, with the cost of construction defrayed through a monthly utility fee on homes and businesses.
Macquarie has received expressions of interest (EOI) from 14 local, regional and national contractors, and has shortlisted two contractors, Black & Veatch and Corning. The firms are prepared to develop fixed-price date-certain design-build proposals. Macquarie has also commissioned a technical analysis of the existing network, and has selected Alcatel-Lucent as its equipment vendor and Fujitsu as its system integrator.
Six of the cities have approved to proceed with a detailed study while the other five cities have rejected Macquarie's proposal.
Murray Mayor Ted Eyre said said to the local press:
"I'm still very optimistic that we will come together. But that is a difficult thing to do with 11 cities, each with very different demographics and many other issues."