News Local/State

Private Partner to Build Out UC2B Broadband System

Updated May 30th to add additional information about UC2B's existing customers.

Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband, or UC2B, announced a partnership Thursday with iTV-3 to provide its high-speed broadband service to homes and businesses in Champaign-Urbana.

UC2B was launched five years ago by the cities of Champaign and Urbana and the University of Illinois to provide gigabit-level broadband service. But the publicly funded project needed a private partner that could afford the cost of installing high-speed fiber to homes and businesses throughout the two cities.

That partner, iTV-3,  was announced Thursday, at a heavily attended news conference held at the University of Illinois Research Park in Champaign. iTV-3 is a subsidiary of Glenview-based Family Video. And UC2B board chairman Brandon Bowersox- Johnson said that iTV-3 would soon be offering broadband internet, telephone and eventually TV service at up to 1000/200 megabits per second (Mbps) to homes and businesses in Champaign-Urbana.

 “And they will build fiber-optic Internet at gigabit speeds in our community, where every neighborhood will have an equal chance to get this service”, said Bowersox-Johnson. “Sign-ups begin today, and anyone in Champaign-Urbana can go online and say that they want this. And the neighborhoods that have the most sign-ups will get service first when construction begins later this year.”

The installation work is set to begin in 90 to 120 days, but Family Video CEO Keith Hoogland says it will take a few years to reach all of Champaign-Urbana with high-speed broadband service.

iTV-3 vice president Levi Dinkla says when they’ve finished with Champaign-Urbana, they may look to other nearby areas, like Savoy.

"Initially, the emphasis is going to be on the core community partners of Champaign and Urbana", said Dinkla. "But the natural organic growth of the network should lead us to other communities."

UC2B says in a news release that iTV-3 will also service its existing customers, and that their services and rates will be maintained for the duration of each customer's contract. UC2B signed up  customers in neighborhoods identified as underserved by Internet service providers, with funds provided by a federal grant. The grant also helped fund installation of UC2B's core infrastructure. But UC2B has spent the last two years looking for a private partner to offer service in all of Champaign-Urbana. Initial efforts to work with broadband developer Gigabit Squared fell through.

High-speed broadband service with 100% fiber-optic connections to the home or office is only available in a few U-S cities. iTV-3 is already in the process of installing high-speed broadband service in several Peoria area communities, including Morton, Pekin and East Peoria.