Cities have 30 days to decide whether to accept Big Broadband grant

CHAMPAIGN – The clock begins ticking Tuesday for local governments to decide whether they are willing to accept a $22.5 million grant to fund the Big Broadband proposal after officials received word this afternoon that the project will be funded by the federal government.

The announcement ends months of anticipation and gives public bodies 30 days to decide if they are willing to accept the grant.

The Champaign City Council is scheduled to meet March 16 with a Maryland consultant who audited the high-speed Internet proposal. Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart in February said that there is a possibility the council may deny the grant.

The local broadband project is one of 23 that the U.S. Department of Commerce announced as funded on Tuesday. The agency on Tuesday committed a total $160 million to broadband projects across the country, according to a press release.

"While this is a major milestone by any definition, this is really just the beginning," Mike Smeltzer, director of networking for Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday afternoon.

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