Sales climbing for year-old iProvo
Rashae Ophus Johnson
Provo, UT
Saturday, October 29, 2005

A year after the launch of iProvo, 4,000 local homes and businesses are receiving Internet, phone and/or television packages through the city-owned fiber optic network.  Though 82 percent of available locations have not subscribed, sales have boomed over the last couple months.

Veracity, after less than three months as a retail service provider on iProvo, is connecting 80,000 calls daily over the network, hiring more staff and hoping to nab 20 new accounts per day.

"We've been very pleased with what we've done," said Veracity President Drew Peterson.  "It's been really exciting on the whole."

Both iProvo service providers, MStar and Veracity, have been marketing aggressively, including door-to-door sales.

"We went all out (in promotions) from the get-go," said Tim Brown, MStar's senior vice president of operations.  "The response to marketing has been very, very favorable."

He declined to reveal his share of iProvo customers, but expects numbers to escalate further in a couple weeks when MStar adds phone service to its Internet and video packages.  The company is completing tests on the equipment, technology, installation and customer service efficiency before offering phone services.

"That's all been passing great, with flying colors," Brown said.  "Everything we've seen so far leads us to believe we should be able to move forward with very few issues, if any."

Some present and former iProvo consumers still are haunted by a glitch that cut phone service to 188 locations when Veracity took over accounts from HomeNet, the original provider.  Despite successful conversion tests on several units, technicians traced the interruptions to incorrect account information or to outdated equipment still lingering from a two-year trial launch in the Grandview Neighborhood.

Outages ranged from a few hours to more than a week.  Russell and Elizabeth Peterson, both self-employed, survived two weeks without phone service then canceled Veracity -- despite complete satisfaction with the Internet.

"A degree of intolerance is necessary to keep my business up and running," said Russell Peterson, who as a software developer excitedly supported the iProvo project.  "I'm going to wait a while before I dip my toes in that water again."

Veracity has reported an "up-time" of 99.9 percent since the conversion problem, and Drew Peterson said they've recovered well from the rough start.

"I'm sure those wounds are pretty deep and easy to remember," he said.  "For all the new customers, our service has been reliable."

Most customers say they're content with iProvo and saving money.

Keith and Marilyn Williamson switched from Qwest phone and Comcast cable television to a package that includes high-speed Internet for the same overall cost.  Packages from either provider range from $85 to more than $100, depending on television programming options.

"Everything works fine," Keith Williamson said. "I'm glad so far."

Ongoing iProvo construction is projected to equip the entire city by July 2006.  The Provo Municipal Council in January 2004 approved a $39.5 million bond to fund iProvo, and administrators say the ultimate goal of 10,000 subscribers would cover the bond debt.