Big broadband to reach all of Champaign-Urbana

Darrell Hoemann/CU-CitizenAccess

iTV-3 vice president Levi Dinkla speaks during a press conference announcing a partnership between UC2B and iTV-3 at Enterprise Works in the UIUC Research Park on Thursday, May 29, 2014. 

Darrell Hoemann/CU-CitizenAccess.org -- Now all residents in Champaign-Urbana can access big broadband, thanks to a new agreement with a private company.

It was standing room only in the atrium of the Enterprise Works building at the University of Illinois’ Research Park last week as local governments and the University announced the expansion of Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) to all residents of the two cities.

UC2B, the program used to build a public fiber optic backbone and deliver the internet to underserved areas, has formed a partnership with iTV-3, a Family Video company with three stores in the community. 

Though founded in Springfield, Family Video now operates 775 stores in 19 states and Canada and plans to expand and operate the network in Urbana and Champaign.

Construction on the additional fiber is slated to begin later this year.

“It will give every neighborhood an equal chance,” said Brandon Bowersox-Johnson, UC2B board chair.

UC2B launched in 2010 to build and operate fiber-optic network to underserved areas in the community. Since then, more than 1,000 residents, 75 businesses and 250 ‘anchor institutions’ such as churches and community organizations, have registered for the service, according to a new release.

Early users in subsidized areas pay as little as $20 a month for service.

Under the expansion, new subscribers will pay between $49.95 and $94.50 for service, depending on speeds and voice service.

According to news releases, iTV-3 will continue to honor the initial contracts. Existing customers can also switch to one of the new offerings.

iTV-3 will begin the fiber network expansion first in neighborhoods where 50 percent of households have signed up.

Gig. U is a coalition of 30 U.S. research universities that helps bring high-speed networks to its members and surrounding communities.

Gig. U.’s executive director Blair Levin said the project places the community in an elite position.

“The public-private partnership you’ve created is unique and cutting edge,” he said.

Documents released at the press conference said iTV-3 had agreed to a service discount plan similar to one discussed in 2012, when some area residents made monetary pledges for service to attract a private partner. 

About 500 households and business committed a total of more than $400,000 for a build out of the high-speed fiber network under the 2012 UC2B plan.

This money has been held in escrow.

 iTV-3 will send emails to those initial investors with a list of options, including a refund for those who want their money returned.

Residents can sign up for the service online at www.theperfectupgrade.com, and information also will be available at the Family Video stores.

Monthly service prices listed on the web site are:

Speed                          without Voice (telephone)      with Voice

50/10 mps                   $49.95                                    $69.90

100/20 mps                 $59;95                                    $74.90

1000/200 mps             $79.95                                    $94.90

The site also includes this note:

iTV-3 cannot currently offer TV in Champaign or Urbana until we receive a Television Franchise Agreement. We are working to be able to offer video service in both communities. Please sign up for Internet and check this box if you would like iTV-3 to contact you once video packages are available.