UC2B Partner Moves Ahead With Ambitious Expansion Plans

I3 Broadband, the private sector partner working with Champaign-Urbana to deliver high-quality connectivity, continues to expand throughout the region and announced that it will aim to offer services to 3,000 more premises during 2018.

One Step At A Time

The company has mapped out the community into neighborhoods and decides order of deployment on several factors, including proximity to areas already being served and level of interest. Residents can indicate their interest online at the company’s website or request the company send them a form to fill out and mail back. I3 will consider bringing the network to a neighborhood when 30 - 45 percent of households express interest in signing up for the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service.

I3 serves premises in 24 neighborhoods in Champaign-Urbana, which includes neighborhoods that UC2B built out with fiber and areas where iTV-3 deployed fiber.

When the communities of Champaign and Urbana began looking for a partner to offer services via the publicly owned UC2B network, they first chose iTV-3 because the ISP was a local company with a community minded approach. In 2014, they began working with iTV-3, but within two years, iTV-3 decided to sell its assets to Countrywide Broadband. 

The UC2B leadership chose iTV-3 in part because the company had expressed a commitment to keep expanding the network to other neighborhoods. The sale raised concerns because Countrywide was a larger entity taking over a local interested provider, but the community hoped that Countrywide would be better able to expand the infrastructure because it held considerable assets. Champaign-Urbana chose not to exercise the right of first refusal to purchase fiber assets that had been deployed by iTV-3, but they retained ownership of original UC2B assets. Countrywide began serving customers under its subsidiary i3.

As part of their five-year plan to build out the network, i3 announced in the spring of 2017 that they aimed to add 2,500 homes to the network each year. Over the past 12 months, the company has added 2,750 to the network.

More About UC2B

Back in 2013, Christopher spoke with Carol Ammons and Brandon Bowersox-Johnson about the project in episode 42 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Later, Bowersox-Johnson came on the show again along with Levi Dinkla from iTV-3 to talk about the first partnership agreement. You can read more about the journey from stimulus to partnership in Champaign-Urbana; we’ve followed the story since 2012.

Be sure to also check out our report on municipal networks and partnerships, in which we look at UC2B and discuss lessons learned and the elements that make a true partnership. The report is titled Successful Strategies for Broadband Public-Private Partnerships and you can download it here.