Please don’t tell me that municipal fiber networks are destined to meet the same fate as MuniFi networks. Today there is news that Broadwave Networks, a company co-founded by former Novell CEO, Robert Frankenberg, is buying the much-vaunted iProvo fiber network from the city of Provo, Utah, for $40.6 million. Broadwave is in the business of building fiber networks in new communities, and has planned networks in new developments in Utah. The $40.6 million will help pay off the $39.5 million bond the city issued to build the system.
The sale of the network, and to some extent its financial failure, makes me think that the fiscal reality of running a telecom operation and an open network don’t sync up. The iProvo network launched with much fanfare in 2004, but has had a rocky financial road. Despite the promise of a fiber future and what was an open network, iProvo didn’t get enough subscribers and was costing the city of Provo about $2 million a year. The iProvo site indicates that they had 10,000 subscribers in October 2007, and last month, Provo Mayor Lewis Billings said it was too soon to unload the network. Apparently he changed his mind. I imagine all the incumbents who opposed iProvo are thrilled to bits today.