More broadband details coming at Champaign council study session

CHAMPAIGN – Local officials are ready to unveil more details on the Big Broadband project that is intended to provide high-speed Internet to underserved areas in Champaign-Urbana.

The update on the broadband plan will be delivered to Champaign City Council members during a study session on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.

The council voted in March to accept a $22.5 million federal grant to build the fiber optic infrastructure that will connect homes and 137 community buildings to the network. That grant will be shared between the cities of Champaign and Urbana and the University of Illinois.

Two intergovernmental committees have been working since then to finalize plans for the system, for which construction could begin by this time next year, said Mike Smeltzer, director of networking for Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services at the UI.

Residents could start purchasing Internet several months after that.

"We are definitely feeling pressure to get people up and running," Smeltzer said.

Basic Internet would cost $19.99 per month, according to the plan that will be presented to the council this week.

That would be enough to power one high-definition television and still have remaining bandwidth to surf the Internet, Smeltzer said.

A range of different plans would be offered at increasing prices and increasing Internet speeds up to the fastest connectivity: that $85.99-per-month plan could power 10 high-definition televisions simultaneously with remaining bandwidth to surf, Smeltzer said.

"Someone would really need to be a power user or really have some money to burn to get that kind of connectivity at home," he said.

The prices are based on a projected 54 percent subscription rate – of the 4,650 homes to which the service will first be available, officials are estimating 2,500 will subscribe.

The projected subscription rates "may be a little aggressive, but it needs to be aggressive to work," Smeltzer said.

Smeltzer said research has shown that typical subscription rates on municipally-offered Internet usually reaches an average of about 53 percent after five years. Big Broadband needs to reach 54 percent in less than five years to break even, according to a funding plan that was presented during the grant application process.

"We'll put them in place and see how that works," Smeltzer said.

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DEB wrote on August 09, 2010 at 10:08 am

If this were coming to my neighborhood I'd buy in! My current ISP is good, but my daily bandwidth allocation is exhausted after ten minutes of youtube videos (no HD TV here!), and then it becomes too slow to use. America now rates 24th in the world in broadband quality and 37th in broadband access. Current policies clearly favor continuing the trend of turning America into a third world nation of haves and have nots, with almost no middle class. While eliminating the middle class is good for business and the rich because it creates a huge pool of really cheap, disposable labor like we see in China, it is not so good for those disposable things called human beings.

Wonder if Big Broadband will be net neutral, or will the City of Champaign determine what web sites we are allowed to use, taking on the same censorship role that big business is being given?

sahuoy wrote on August 09, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Republicans have their dream, a best of both worlds, cheap labor in America and cheap labor immigrating to America while tuition cost skyrocket outpacing growth of wages in a controlled depression. Where is the freedom in the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in this mouse maze? Get real America!!! A republican doesn't want to kill you, there is no profit in that, A democrat is the only one to help all the people but that's almost against the law!!! Reap what you sew repubicans in the life after this one!!! Laughing all the way to the bank!!!