I3 Broadband to start expanding fiber-optic network by August

I3 Broadband to start expanding fiber-optic network by August

CHAMPAIGN — I3 Broadband is planning to expand its fiber-optic network to 2,500 new homes this year, with construction beginning no later than Aug. 1.

Construction should take less than three months, said Mike Whitaker, i3 vice president of sales and business development.

After buying iTV-3 in February and agreeing to operate the Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) network, i3 said it would invest millions of dollars to expand the network.

The broadband company already has about 7,000 customers in the area, and plans to grow by at least 2,500 each year.

"It's an aggressive five-year plan," Whitaker said.

Of the 2,500 new homes, about half will be in Champaign and half will be in Urbana.

While he couldn't provide specifics yet, Whitaker said the new coverage areas will include properties west and east of the university, and north of Interstate 74.

The areas were chosen based on various factors, such as whether a neighborhood is next to a neighborhood that already has service, as well as the percent of the neighborhood that has pre—signed up for service.

When iTV-3 operated UC2B, it generally required 50 percent of a neighborhood to pre—sign up before it would expand there. Whitaker said i3's threshold will be lower, around 35 percent.

Potential customers can still pre—sign up on i3 Broadband's website with their credit card or bank account, where they can also see a map of existing service and the number of neighbors needed before i3 will expand to specific neighborhoods.

As part of the expansion, Peoria-based i3 plans to open an office by June in the area with a retail presence and will hire up to 10 employees.

The fiber-optic network has been a longtime coming.

UC2B is a nonprofit partnership of the University of Illinois and the cities of Champaign and Urbana that was initially funded by a federal grant with state and local matching funds.

It has been taking pre—sign ups since 2012, when residents initially had to make a deposit to register their interest. More than 500 households and businesses did so, and some of those are still waiting for the new network in their neighborhood.

Whitaker urged them not to lose hope.

"You'll start to see more significant coverage," he said. "We're very happy with the way we've been received in Champaign-Urbana."

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Bob from Champaign wrote on April 28, 2017 at 12:04 pm

These plans are goofy.  You want people to sign up?  Build out the dang network and offer superior service.  This pre-signup silliness is why this project has languished for years.  If they fool around much longer, cellular networking is going to be a more viable option and nobody will sign up.