The first customers of Champaign-Urbana’s new community broadband network should be getting service this week. UC2B could begin providing high-speed internet service to homes and businesses in underserved areas of Champaign and Urbana as soon as Monday.
Supporters of the UC2B Big Broadband project know they want a high capacity broadband network for the Champaign-Urbana area. However, there is concern that the way money for UC2B is being raised could hinder the project's long-term commitment to open access.
High-speed Internet service might seem ubiquitous, but it's still a luxury for some Illinois residents living in rural areas.
There's good news for four Champaign-Urbana area startup companies.
The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports the companies have been approved to receive investments from the Invest Illinois Venture Fund that was set up last year.
Under the program, companies can receive up to 25 percent of their own lead investments from the state.
The companies that have been approved but haven't yet received any money from the state are Caterva, ANDalyze, Diagnostic Photonics and Nuvixa.
The goal of the fund is that it will replenish itself. The newspaper reports that once a company is viewed as self-sustaining, the state could stop investing and the proceeds from its investment will be used to help other companies.
State lawmakers in Illinois are trying to make it safer for people to use online dating sites.
The Decatur Herald & Review reported Sunday that legislation aiming to do that passed the Illinois House last week.
It would require Internet dating services operating in Illinois to post disclaimers saying whether they conduct background checks on their members.
The measure is sponsored by state Rep. Michelle Mussman, a Democrat from Schaumburg.
She says she wants to help Internet users "become more savvy" and protect themselves from online predators.
Opponents say the bill overreaches. Republican Rep. Jim Durkin of LaGrange says adults should be responsible for their own safety when using such sites.
The legislation now goes to the Senate.
Indiana lottery officials are keeping their eye on an Illinois effort to sell lottery tickets online.
The Hoosier Lottery hasn't started formally looking at online sales. But spokesman Al Larsen tells The Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/GXns7K ) that they'll consider it depending on how the program in Illinois works out.
Illinois began online sales on Sunday of tickets for the multistate Mega Millions game and its state lottery. It's the first state to try an online program.
The system in Illinois sets up a direct deposit account for players with winnings of less than $600. Those who win more than that will receive email notification that they've won. Players will also be able to set up subscriptions for automatic wagers.
As Illlinois adults sip their coffee and unfold their newspapers early Sunday morning, state officials say they can also become some of the first people in the country to buy lottery tickets online.
Illinois will become what lotto officials say is the first state in the U.S. to sell tickets over the Internet when the high-security website goes live around 7 a.m. Sunday. Online players will be able to buy up to $10 worth of Lotto or Mega Millions tickets, and state lawmakers are already considering whether to add Powerball into the mix.
The Illinois Lottery estimates e-ticket sales could net hundreds of thousands of new players, and bring in between $78 million and $118 million in new revenue for the cash-strapped state, half of which would fund capital projects. State lawmakers signed off on the online pilot program in 2009, but implementation had been held up pending legal approval from the U.S. Justice Department, which finally came in December.
In Illinois, where lotto tickets must be bought at a licensed retailer, the plan hasn't been without controversy. Some retail groups have worried that online lottery sales, which they say account for up to 50 percent of revenue at some convenience stores, would take a huge bite out of their in-store business. And anti-gambling advocates complain Internet ticket sales could tempt addicts and underage buyers.
But Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones said the system is secure, and require would-be gamblers to turn over their names, addresses, Social Security numbers and credit card information before they click "buy."
"But there's also the psychological protection that if you attempt to circumvent our rules by playing underage, or playing from outside the state, and you win, we do a winner validation for any prize over $600," Jones said Friday. "And we won't pay you."
Meanwhile, retailers and convenience store owners have been in talks with Jones and Northstar Lottery Group, the private company that runs the Illinois lotto. The store owners had been pushing for a bump in their five percent commission rate to offset a feared drop in in-person ticket sales, as well as a plan to require that online tickets be purchased exclusively using designated debit cards that could only be bought and recharged at brick-and-mortar stores.
But business groups seem to have quieted down after striking a deal to require that Illinois study the effects of online ticket sales on retailers, and the viability of the debit card idea. That plan will be tacked onto the bill that would add Powerball to the Internet pilot program. The amendment is designed to "lift the opposition that the convenience store owners have had," and will likely be introduced next week, according to the bill's sponsor, State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston.
Retailers say they have a symbiotic relationship with the Illinois Lotto. But they're staying vigilant.
"These concerns are not going away, but at least we now - I shouldn't say 'at least' - we now have - or will have - a mechanism to determine whether our concerns play out," said David Vite, CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which represents 5,100 convenience stores across the state.