State commits half of funding match for 'big broadband'

State commits half of funding match for 'big broadband'

CHAMPAIGN — The Urbana-Champaign big broadband project has gotten a $3.5 million funding commitment from the state.

Project organizer Mike Smeltzer said he was notified this morning that the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity would provide the state funding, as long as the $35 million to $37 million project is awarded a federal grant.

The application for approximately $30 million in federal funding must be submitted Friday to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The big broadband project calls for creating a high-speed community-owned fiber optic network, including the installation of seven large fiber-optic rings that could serve all of Champaign-Urbana, parts of Savoy and small areas in the county. Fiber-to-the-premise installation would occur in 11 census blocks in northern Champaign-Urbana where Internet penetration is 40 percent or below.

The state funding pledge amounts to about 10 percent of the overall cost and constitutes half of the overall $7 million required local funding match, said Smeltzer, who is director of networking for the University of Illinois. A consortium of local governments, including Champaign, Urbana and the UI, would provide another $3.5 million.

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