Urbana council exploring high-speed Web possibilities

URBANA – Urbana city council members want to know more details about chances of a high-speed Internet service in Champaign-Urbana.

Mayor Laurel Prussing said the council is interested in the possibilities for a network, but needs more information, including opinions of Urbana residents on what they want.

Urbana, Champaign and the University of Illinois have applied for federal grants of about $36 million which would pay for a "backbone" structure of fiber optic rings and fiber-to-home hookups for 11 "underserved" areas, mostly in north Urbana and north Champaign.

Mike Monson, chief of staff for Prussing, gave council members a report Monday night that raised some concerns about the project, including whether the grant's estimate of 54 percent signup for eligible residents and whether a percentage of Internet income going to a local consortium would be enough to cover operation costs.

Prussing and council members supported one idea presented by Monson to hire a consultant to look at possible business plans for Champaign-Urbana.

Monson said Champaign City Manager Steve Carter also expressed interest in hiring a consultant.

"We get a lot of money, but the question is whether we can afford it down the road," Prussing said. "We can't afford something where we keep pumping money in and we only put a few people (in the system) every year."

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