All West coming to South Ogden, competition with Connext intensifying
SOUTH OGDEN — Call it the Great Fiber Race of Weber County.
All West Communications on Tuesday held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to mark the start of work to install a fiber-optic network in South Ogden, seven weeks after competitor Connext Broadband held a separate ceremony to launch development of its own network in the city.
Connext, moreover, will be developing a new network in Ogden — a ceremonial launch is set for Wednesday — and All West President Matt Weller said his firm plans to soon start building a network in that city as well. The firms aim to go head-to-head with larger incumbents like Comcast and CenturyLink, not to mention each other.
“We’re just building as fast as we can,” Weller said after Tuesday’s All West ceremony in South Ogden.
All West, Connext and UTOPIA Fiber, involved in development of a network in West Haven, have all made forays into Weber County in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic, which kept many people at home, underscored the import of home broadband connections and has bolstered the push to augment connectivity here and around the country.
With Tuesday’s groundbreaking, though, the stakes seem to be growing. Two new broadband companies — Connext and All West — will develop in South Ogden, and it looks like they’ll be facing off in Ogden as well.
“We’re not just going to go down one road. We’re going to go everywhere,” Weller said, echoing the commitment of Connext officials to expand fiber throughout the cities where the firm expands, not just denser, more potentially profitable zones.
South Ogden city officials on Tuesday emphasized that they want to leave broadband development to the private sector, granting franchises to any firms that seek them, presuming they have the qualifications. South Ogden isn’t committing any funding or financial backing to either the All West or Connext plans.
“We welcome them all. We think that it’s good for healthy competition,” said Matt Dixon, the South Ogden city manager. “It’s the free market at play here.”
Mayor Russell Porter echoed that, saying he hopes the upshot is better service and better prices for consumers. The public has frequently reached out to him on the issue, he said, and they “want it to be fast, they want it to be reliable.”
Weller said All West, which is based in Kamas, has investment funding, allowing for the expansion. All West broke ground this spring on a planned $16 million network serving North Ogden and he said he’s hoping the systems in North Ogden and South Ogden are done within 18 months. The firm also has plans to expand its network elsewhere in Utah.
“We’re growing it very fast,” Weller said. “What has happened — the market has awakened to fiber to the home.”
Novacap, a private equity firm with offices in Canada and New York, announced last November it had reached a deal to acquire All West.
Brian Papworth, spokesperson for Connext, which is based in Ogden, recognized the competition with All West. “They’re kind of locking horns with us. That’s business,” he said.
Whatever the case, demand is strong for broadband. “Fiber is the wave of the future,” he said.
The Connext ceremony on Wednesday is to start at 4 p.m. and will be held in a parking lot southwest of the Ogden arch over Washington Boulevard, roughly in the 1800 block.