Fiber-optic installation may begin next year

URBANA – Acceptance of a $22.5 million federal grant by Urbana City Council members Monday means that local officials can now begin the hard work – actually building a fiber-optic network.

Construction is expected to begin in 2011, possibly extending into early 2012, according to Michael Smeltzer, director of networking at the Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services at the University of Illinois.

Urbana, Champaign and the University of Illinois formed a consortium to apply for the federal grant, which is intended to provide access to high-speed, fiber-optic Internet service to "underserved" areas.

The council voted 6-0, with Alderwoman Heather Stevenson attending by phone connection, to accept the federal grant.

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said after the meeting that there are some differences between resolutions of acceptance by the Champaign and Urbana city councils.

"Everything has to be worked out," Prussing said. "At least now, we have a mechanism to do everything."

The plan calls for a policy committee and a technical committee with representatives of the three consortium members. One of the key differences in Urbana's approach is to call for a process to get requests for proposals on engineering and electronics and to have a review by the technical committee on the conduit design.

"There's going to be back and forth," Prussing said.

A technical committee of 12 members – six voting members and six advisory – will review and advise a policy committee on issues such as electronics and engineering.

The grant application by the consortium calls for seven fiber rings with 495 connection points near 12,000 homes and 800 businesses. The project would also link 137 key institutions, including schools, hospitals, city buildings and libraries.

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samerus wrote on April 06, 2010 at 6:04 am

So its a grant to help the "undeserved" but will also help 800 businesses. Sounds like free money to start a communication business. By the way $2.5 billion isn't even close to enough to get this built and active. They will need to dip into taxes and raise utility bills to complete.