Tag: "illinois"

Posted February 6, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

The UC2B project broke ground in the fall of 2011 and is a joint effort by the cities of Urbana and Champaign and the University of Illinois. The project is funded with a $22.5 million federal stimulus grant, a $3 million grant from the state of Illinois, and a list of other grants from local agencies.

From the beginning, the project policy board resolved to set aside funding from the network to address the local digital divide. According to a Janelle O'Dea article in the Daily Illini, 2-5 percent of the annual revenue from the network will go into this fund. The policy board is now fielding ideas from the public. There will be a series of community meetings and the first brought several ideas. From the article:

Meeting attendees presented several ideas for how to spend the fund. Some suggested purchasing new computers for resident use and training residents to use computers.

Artice James, president of the Champaign chapter of the National Council of African-American Men, suggested using the funds to provide job training for the installation of fiber optic material to area homes. James said he hoped many of these jobs will employ minority residents.

Alkalimat also commented on the issue of creating permanent jobs for Champaign-Urbana residents. He said he could see potential for creating a group similar to Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

UC2B's approach brings more people to the network in a self-nourishing fashion. The local community knows where the digital divide is in their area. Funding and decisions come from the people who will live with the benefits of the network. UC2B is another example of how local communities can build networks to effectively address the digital divide.

Posted January 22, 2013 by Christopher Mitchell

Jason Bird is the Electrical Superintendent at the city of Princeton Utilities in Illinois. He joins us for the 30th episode of our Community Broadband Bits Podcast to explain why Princeton built a rather unique network. Princeton has built a fiber network to connect some of the local businesses and uses broadband over power lines (BPL) to provide a low cost option for area residents.

Princeton offers another example of how a community can build and own the infrastructure while partnering with a local company that will provision the services. This approach appeals to many towns that recognize the benefits of ensuring the network is owned by the community but do not want to provide services themselves.

This network helped save hundreds of jobs and has benefited the community in many ways -- just one of which is that they were selected as a site that allowed families to videochat with our troops deployed abroad over the holidays.

Read our coverage of Princeton's network here.

Read the transcript from this episode here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 21 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can download the Mp3 file of this episode directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to mojo monkeys for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted January 14, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

Recently, we covered the city-owned fiber optic network in Princeton, Illinois. The network has been serving city facilities, schools, libraries, and businesses since late 2003. The network contributes to economic development by delivering high capacity telecommunications services at affordable prices to local businesses. The City built and owns the network but services are delivered by a private sector partner.

Princeton is also working to bridge the digital divide in its community. The city offers an inexpensive Broadband Over Power Lines (BPL) service to residents and small businesses, using the municipal electricial grid.

BPL was once touted as a great hope for rural connectivity. The technology allows users to send telecommunications over the electrical lines already in place across the country.  After several deployments revealed problems with radio interference, performance issues, and unreliability, the great hope considerably dimmed. However, the technology still has its place.

BPL lives on in Princeton as a supplement to its fiber network. According to Jason Bird, Director of Utilities, subscribers like being able to access the Internet from any room in their home that has an electric outlet. Capacity is very limited - only 1 Mbps service for residential service - but the price is right for those who do not have a large demand for speed. Residential service is $24.95 per month and commercial service is $99.00 per month.

The technology was attractive to the city utility because it was economical and quick to install. Prior to the BPL network, most people in town still used dial-up. As we reported in our post on Princeton's fiber network, the city has forged a long relationship with IVNet, an Illinois ISP. The BPL network is another successful joint project that has been helpful to the community. The two shared the cost of constructing the BPL network and profits are shared with IVNet retaining 70% of the profits.

The future of current BPL networks is uncertain with the loss of interest in...

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Posted January 4, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

Kudos to Richard Downey, Village Administrator for the Village of Kronenwetter in Wisconsin. Mr. Downey reminded us that we have yet to write about the fiber network in Princeton, Illinois. While we have noted Princeton in our list of economic development successes, we haven't delved into the network that serves the city, the schools, and the business community.

Princeton is home to about 7,500 people and is located in the north central region of the state in Bureau County. They have their own electric, water, and wastewater utilities and began offering broadband connectivity in late 2003. We spoke with Jason Bird, Superintendent of Princeton Electric Department, who shared the network's story with us.

In 2003, the city’s largest electric and water consumer was also the largest employer. At the time, incumbents served the community with T1 connections. The manufacturing company moved to Mexico, taking 450 jobs with it. The community was stunned.

Approximately 6 months later, Ingersoll Rand, the community's second largest employer with about 300 jobs, also considered moving away from Princeton. While lack of needed broadband was not the only reason, the Ingersoll Rand CEO let community leaders know that it was one of the influential factors. The company liked being in Princeton, and the city would have been on the top of the location list if not for the sad state of connectivity. At the time, the only commercial option was unreliable T1 connections for $1,500 - $2,000 per month. If Ingersoll Rand moved, the community would experience job losses equal to 10% of the population. Community leaders needed to act and do it quickly.

To retain Ingersoll Rand, the City Council decided unanimously to go into the telecommunications industry. They issued an RFP and encouraged incumbents AT&T and Comcast to bid; neither were interested. (Interestingly, once Princeton let it be known that they were going to build the network without them, there were some local upgrades from both companies.)

IVNet, located in Peru, Illinois, won the bid to manage and provide retail...

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Posted October 10, 2012 by Lisa Gonzalez

On September 19th, the Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center (UCIMC) hosted "Models for Building Local Broadband: Public, Private, Coop, Nonprofit." Christopher Mitchell was one of several panelists who discussed local broadband options and challenges.

The presentors live streamed to 138 attendees with 93 watching remotely various locations and 45 at the Media Center. If you were not able to attend or stream the live event, you can now watch the archived version. You can learn a little about the event and watch it at the UCIMC website, or watch the YouTube video here.

Posted September 14, 2012 by Lisa Gonzalez

The Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center (UCIMC) will be hosting what is sure to be an interesting online discussion about local broadband models. On Wednesday, September 19th at 4:30 CST, an expert panel will be presenting "Models for Building Local Broadband: Public, Private, Coop, Nonprofit." The event will be held at Urbana City Hall in Illinois, but you can also stream the event live here.

In addition to our own Christopher Mitchell from ILSR, we will hear from Joanne Hovis, CTC Technology & Energy (public interest telecom expert and also NATOA President) and Wally Bowen, Mountain Area Information Network (non-profit internet provider in North Carolina).

From the press release:

Urbana-Champaign in Illinois is completing construction of a public system - called UC2B - that will connect 10% of the community with fast broadband they can use to access the internet, share videos, make phone calls and more.  The project was made possible by federal funds.

  • How do we connect the other 90% of our community to fast broadband? 
  • With what funds?  Who will control it? 
  • How can these models support digital inclusion for minority and low income users?

Urbana IMC has gathered some of the top experts in the field of community broadband to join in a discussion of these questions. During this forum, which will be webcast nationally, we will explore public, public-private, non profit, and cooperative models for building out broadband.We will discuss the benefits and challenges of each model to inform our community's upcoming decision about building out the rest of the UC2B network. Champaign-Urbana recently applied to build out the network with Gigabit Squared in a public-private partnership where the network is owned by a private company and the public sets the terms of use. The community is also exploring municipal and co-op models and has a request for...

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Posted September 21, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

The Champaign-Urbana "Big Broadband" stimulus project as broken ground. This will be an interesting project, as it is connecting a community that was intimately involved in shaping the Internet as we know it today via the University there.

Tuesday's ceremony was the kickoff to the construction phase of a huge, multi-agency, multimillion-dollar project to deliver that broadband access to 2,500 homes and businesses and 137 community buildings.

The agencies, the cities of Champaign and Urbana and the University of Illinois, were notified 18 months ago that they were to be the recipients of a $22.5 million federal stimulus grant to build the Internet infrastructure. That was paired with a $3 million grant from the state of Illinois and hundreds of thousands dollars more from the local agencies.

After spending the intervening months planning the network, officials gathered in Douglass Park on Tuesday with shovels and hard hats in hand. Construction crews will be burying 278 miles' worth of fiber throughout Champaign-Urbana during the next months, and organizers hope to be delivering Internet and cable service to eligible businesses and homes within the next year.

Urbana Logo

The goal is ultimately to connect everyone -- residents and businesses -- with the best network possible, allowing independent ISPs to offer services. However, this approach is somewhat new, with a lot of diverse stakeholders trying to work together so it will undoubtedly be a project to watch and learn from.

Follow the project and learn more about it on their site.

Posted August 2, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

Highland Communications Services will soon be the newest community-owned FTTH network. It is on schedule to start offering services to businesses in September and some residences in October. A local news story details some of the costs and contracts behind the network.

The project will be paid for by a $9 million Electric System Revenue Bond issue, utilizing the Build America Bond program, created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as an incentive to communities to put people back to work. Build America Bonds will allow the City to issue taxable securities and then receive a subsidy from the U.S. Treasury equal to 35 percent of the interest.

Highland's population is approximately 10,000.

Please note the spelling error in the story - they are building a head-end, not a "dead-end" (despite the accusations of some).

Posted May 10, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

Back in early March, Highland Illinois, broke ground on its publicly owned FTTH network project. Plans call for connecting some businesses by the end of this year and connecting everyone by the end of 2011.

KMOV in St. Louis covered the network:

The entire concept is expected to cost $13 million. About $9 million of the start-up costs will be funded by bonds - a move voters signed off on last year.

Video:

Posted January 27, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

This community of almost 10,000 near St. Louis has taken another step toward creating competition in broadband by investing in a publicly owned fiber network. In April of 2009, the community voted overwhelmingly (75%) yes to a question authorizing the network with revenue bonds that would be backed by electrical revenues from the city's public power company.

They have started the first phase (focusing mainly on businesses though some residences will be passed) by awarding bids for construction (the bids were below expectations - a slow economy is a good time for infrastructure investments due to the low prices). Though the project has spurred some debate, the majority remain in strong support, as demonstrated in a recent article about the project.

Guillot presented the council with more than 100 email replies from Highland Chamber of Commerce members who are in favor of the fiber project, including banks, schools, manufacturers, realtors and other businesses.

“There are currently other companies providing like services in Highland. This project will not end their relationships with the city, rather it will give consumers a choice and force competitors to provide a better product or better service to remain competitive,” Guillot said. “This will also keep more revenue in Highland.”

Highland resident Brad Korte agreed.

“The fiber-to-the-home parallels paving the streets in the 20s, starting the city’s electric system and water department. I would rather spend my money, and take a chance with my money on Highland,” he said. “If we don’t take a chance on this, I think we would regret it in a couple of years.”

The project will proceed more quickly if they are successful in an application for stimulus funds under the broadband programs. Regardless, the first phase will be completed in a year and needs a 23% take rate to break even financially (ignoring the many indirect benefits of such a network).

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