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 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.