SANTA CLARA — Residents in Santa Clara might now be the envy of other Southern Utahns who have made a pastime of complaining about their internet service on Yelp, Facebook, Google Reviews and other review sites. 

Stock photo. | Photo by Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

With announcements from UTOPIA and TDS this month that they have completed projects to bring fiber-optic internet to just about every household in the city, Santa Clara now has more internet provider choices at higher speeds than any other local city.

Fiber-optic internet is considered the fastest form of internet technology, using beams of light through specialized cabling to transmit data.

Nearly two years to the day since the Santa Clara City Council voted to back-up a bond by the Utah Infrastructure Agency to bring an open access, fiber-optic network to every address in the city, that project is completed. 

On Nov. 8, the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency – also known as UTOPIA – announced it has completed its fiber-optic network to every household in the city, reaching 3,242 different addresses. 

UTOPIA and the Utah Infrastructure Agency are a combination of multiple cities that say they are working together to provide high-speed internet to every resident. 

About two weeks later on Nov. 21, cable and internet provider TDS announced it had completed its own fiber-to-home network to “nearly the entire community of Santa Clara.” TDS says it has fiber networks reaching around 2,800 households and businesses in town.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, there are approximately 2,736 households in Santa Clara. 

In an undated photo from the spring of 2021, UTOPIA Fiber crews lay out conduit fiber cables in a neighborhood | Photo by Lynda Shenkman/UTOPIA Fiber, St. George News

CenturyLink, through its Quantum Fiber service, said it has also expanded service in Santa Clara and is doing the same in nearby Ivins.  

There are 15 providers available through UTOPIA’s lines including InfoWest, Beehive Broadband and Fibernet. Along with TDS, CenturyLink/Quantum and Kayenta Technologies. Santa Clara residents now have around 18 internet providers from which to choose.

No matter the provider, it is the first time a Southern Utah city has had every address covered with the highest-speed internet access. 

South Central Communications, now known as SC Broadband, committed in 2019 to privately build fiber-optic internet to every address in Cedar City, though as of 2023 still hasn’t completed the task

Santa Clara City Council member Jarett Waite, who spearheaded the efforts to bring Santa Clara into the UTOPIA partnership, said the move has spurned competition, decreasing the prices for internet while increasing speeds nearly 900%. 

“Residents of Santa Clara now have the most options for internet. The UTOPIA initiative has been very successful in vastly improving internet availability and stability in Santa Clara,” Waite said, adding he has had many residents call him to thank him for pushing for the fiber-optic initiative. “The incumbent providers definitely stepped up their game, and prices for internet packages have become very competitive.”

Between TDS and UTOPIA, a household in Santa Clara can now pay $70 per month and receive a minimum of 1,000 Mbsps without a contract according to both companies. Previously, the same household might have been paying slightly more per month for, at best, 100 Mbps. 

Council member Jarett Waite at the Santa Clara City Council meeting, Santa Clara, Utah, Jan. 26, 2022 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The UTOPIA lines are considered public infrastructure that multiple internet providers can utilize to bring internet, voice and television services to customers. Private companies TDS and Quantum/CenturyLink build and operate their own fiber lines.

Ivins, St. George and Washington City have also considered partnering with UTOPIA to bring high-speed internet to every household and, in their words, increase internet competition in their cities. But Santa Clara is the first city locally to actually put that idea into practice.

What remains to be seen in Santa Clara’s internet experiment is whether user fees will pay off the bond by the Utah Infrastructure Agency used for the network’s construction, as was the plan when the network was announced two years ago. The city has committed to backing-up the bond, but city officials say the agreement doesn’t allow for the city to be on the hook for paying the bond off.

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