Private sector i3 Broadband recently announced that it will begin expanding infrastructure in the Champaign and Urbana, Illinois, communities. Construction will begin no later than August 1st.
Nonprofit UC2B obtained $26 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding to deploy its urban Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project. The project offered residents high-quality Internet access for as little as $19.99 per month.
UC2B found private sector partner iTV-3 to take over operations and invest further in the network in 2014. One of the reasons UC2B chose iTV-3 was the company’s commitment to invest its own resources into expanding so others in the Urbana-Champaign community would have access. iTV-3 expanded, but slowly.
When iTV-3 decided to sell its assets to Countrywide Broadband in 2016, UC2B had the right of first refusal for fiber deployed by iTV-3, but decided not to exercise that right. Countrywide created i3, based in Peoria, to serve current and future subscribers in the region. While those watching the transaction were concerned about losing a local partner, folks the area were also optimistic because i3 has the capital for a more aggressive expansion schedule.
Aggressive Five-Year Plan
Mike Whitaker, VP of sales and business development of i3 told the News-Gazette that the upcoming expansion will serve an additional 2,500 homes. The company plans to add the same amount each year for the next five years with half in Champaign and half in Urbana.
Deciding where to expand is based on several factors, including whether or not a neighboring area already has service and the percentage of interested households. When early partner iTV-3 used pre-registration to determine where to build, they required a 50 percent sign up rate in a neighborhood prior to deployment; i3 will use a lower 35 percent threshold.
Whitaker and i3 are optimistic, "You'll start to see more significant coverage," he said. "We're very happy with the way we've been received in Champaign-Urbana."
The company also plans to open a retail office in the area this summer.