On Urbana: “The United States should not be behind the rest of the developed world on broadband service. For years, I couldn’t get a DSL connection to my home. The commercial operators haven’t served the entire Urbana community. They’re trying to expand now that there’s city competition. Where were they all those years when we were trying to get better service?”
On Next Century Cities: “I think cities have taken the lead on a lot of important issues, like broadband and climate change, because it’s important to our residents. That’s what we’re here for. Next Century Cities is taking the lead on promoting broadband and we’re glad to be a founding partner city.”
What Urbana is doing: UC2B (Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband), was started in 2009 as a consortium of Urbana, Champaign and the University of Illinois. In 2010. UC2B was awarded $22 million in federal grant dollars through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and also received $3.5 million in state grant money, as well as $3 million in local match contributions. By 2013, a fiber optic infrastructure, with seven backbone rings, was built throughout the two communities and Internet service was being directly provided to approximately 1,100 homes in low-income neighborhoods at a bargain rate of $19.99 a month. Broadband service is also now being provided to about 250 anchor institutions like schools, government offices, UI facilities, social service agencies and churches.
UC2B’s governmental structure was converted from a consortium to a not-for-profit corporation in October 2013, with Urbana, Champaign and the UI each making three appointments to a nine-member governing board. On May 29, 2014, UC2B announced a unique partnership with ITV-3, a privately-held Family Video company, under which the company will operate the network and work toward a full build-out of service to Champaign-Urbana residents.
Neighborhoods will be extended broadband service once at least half of the residences indicate their interest in signing up for Gigabit Internet. Urbana and Champaign are now touting UC2B and Gigabit Internet to attract economic development to the community.