CHAMPAIGN — Door-to-door sign-ups for the Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband system got under way this week in neighborhoods just north of the Beckman Institute.
The sign-ups will give residents access to ultra-high-speed Internet service for as little as $19.99 a month, said Teri Legner, interim coordinator for the broadband consortium. Service is expected to be available July 9.
The Big Broadband project, made possible by federal and state grants, will give Champaign-Urbana a fiber network that's expected to make the community one of the best-networked in the nation.
Community "ambassadors" for the Big Broadband system have been touting the broadband service at community events for months and began canvassing neighborhoods this week, Legner said.
"They'll go out late afternoon and evenings when people are most likely to be home," Legner said, adding they'll also visit homes on Saturdays.
Canvassers wear UC2B shirts and carry identification. They can sign up residents electronically, using iPads, or on paper forms, depending on the customer's preference.
Residents can also go directly to the Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband system's website — uc2b.net — to complete a service agreement.
Legner said 20-Mbps service is available for $19.99 a month, 30-Mbps service for $29.99 a month and 40-Mbps service for $39.99 a month — all for 24-month terms.
She said most subscribers are expected to choose the least expensive option because it's faster than what's already available.
Using the iPads, ambassadors will show residents what they can do with high-speed Internet, and they'll leave door-hangers when residents aren't home.
Legner said the ambassadors are starting with neighborhoods that will get service first.
"We're really very close to having the (fiber-optic) rings lit (operational) in two fiber distribution hub areas with 500 homes apiece just north of Beckman," she said. Work will move to the north, and then east and west, she said.
Under the grants, homes in 11 census tracts where Internet access is low are eligible for free installation of fiber-optic cable.
Residents there won't have to pay for installation or equipment costs, but will have to pay a monthly fee for service.
Areas in those census tracts generally include:
— The neighborhoods in Champaign-Urbana north of University Avenue between the main Canadian National railroad track in Champaign and Cunningham Avenue in Urbana.
— The areas north of Bradley Avenue and south of Interstate 74 between Prospect Avenue and the main Canadian National track in Champaign.
— The Garden Hills neighborhood in northwest Champaign.
— Some neighborhoods east of downtown Urbana, particularly those lying north of Main Street and south of University Avenue.
— The area of Champaign bounded by Interstate 57, Springfield Avenue, Duncan Road and Kirby Avenue.
Governance for the Big Broadband system dates from 2009, when the cities of Champaign and Urbana and the University of Illinois agreed to form a body to administer the federal grant. Work on the broadband system's fiber backbone began last fall.