URBANA — A national group that promotes community-level telecommunications on Thursday named the Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband initiative as its "community broadband project of the year."
The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors chose Big Broadband "for deploying an innovative, open-access FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) network, and turning on its head the traditional model of starting with the most lucrative areas by prioritizing first low-income and unserved communities."
Big Broadband is a $31 million, largely grant-funded project to connect low-income neighborhoods and community institutions to a high-speed fiber-optic network capable of carrying huge amounts of information and Internet access.
Organizers are in the middle of trying to figure out how to expand the network beyond the neighborhoods paid for with grants. Big Broadband principal investigator Mike Smeltzer said Big Broadband bucks the tendency to build in the highest-income neighborhoods first.
"I think we maybe always thought that we were a little bit ahead of the curve," Smeltzer said.
In a news release, Gov. Pat Quinn commended the project and thanked local organizers.
"We are committed to growing our broadband infrastructure to connect every corner of our great state," Quinn said in the release. "I would like to congratulate the Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband project, and I would like to thank them for their innovation and tireless efforts to make a difference in their community."