News Local/State

UC2B to Light Up Broadband Service to First Customers

By Jim Meadows

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.

Champaign Economic Development Manager Teri Legner is serving as UC2B’s interim coordinator. She said crews have spent the last few days testing the broadband network’s nodes, in preparation for turning them on, or as she terms it, lighting them up.

“They will be lit sort of incrementally as the construction process evolves,” Legner said. “Then we can light up more and more homes. I believe the areas that we’re focusing on initially are areas north of University, at Wright Street, and then we’ll just kind of fan out from there to the east and to the west.”

A federal grant is funding UC2B’s initial service to areas of north Urbana and north and west Champaign that are low in internet service. Schools, libraries and other so-called “anchor institutions” are also receiving service. Legner said this first state of service will be hooked up gradually between now and the end of January.

UC2B is also exploring the possibility of working with private investors to raise the money needed to complete its service network in Champaign, Urbana and Savoy. It has applied to start-up company Gigabit Squared, which has offered to pay installation costs for a handful of community broadband networks among those belonging to the college town Gig U. program.

UC2B has issued a Request For Information, seeking to hear from other companies and investors interested in completing the service’s high-speed broadband network for Champaign, Urbana and Savoy.

Legner said even if they are named a recipient of funding from Gigabit Squared, the information from other investors will be useful, “So that if we are successful in our application with Gigabit Squared, and they offer us an opportunity to build out our community, we could have something to compare with.”

The search for private investors to complete UC2B has raised concerns about local control among some supporters of the new service, and Legner says other options are still under discussion. The Urbana City Council votes Monday night on a resolution asking UC2B to keep those other options on the table.