UC2B officials are still awaiting word on whether an investor named Gigabit Squared plans to pay for a massive build-out of the Big Broadband network from the grant-funded area to the rest of the community.
Officials say they plan on communicating with the more than 500 people in Champaign-Urbana and Savoy who committed $381,800 toward the effort to entice the company to build here.
The "competition" asked residents, businesses owners and landlords to pay, at minimum, $100 up front and potentially $400 later to hook their properties up to the fiber-optic network.
They would also have to commit to buying at least one year of Internet service, starting at $30 per month.
Those who paid were promised that the neighborhoods with the highest numbers of commitments would be among the first hooked up to the network expansion, and individuals who paid an even higher amount would be among the first homes or businesses connected.
Officials expected a response from Gigabit Squared by now, but they have yet to receive one, said Champaign economic development manager Teri Legner. Gigabit Squared on Thursday announced it would be funding a project in Seattle in cooperation with the city and the University of Washington, but Champaign-Urbana officials have received no definitive information that they are still in or out of the running.
In the meantime, a number of other options are being considered. City officials have asked other private vendors for proposals to expand the network, and Urbana City Council members have even discussed a publicly funded build-out.
The money that residents and business owners committed to the Gigabit Squared option could be applied to any of the others if officials choose to go that route.
Urbana Alderman Brandon Bowersox-Johnson said UC2B officials plan to send a letter to those who committed payments to explain exactly what is going on with that pool of money and what they can expect to happen during the next few months.
Status of network construction
UC2B principal investigator Michael Smeltzer said construction on the grant-funded portion of the network — the $31 million worth of fiber-optic connections for community institutions and underserved neighborhoods — is almost complete:
— 7 of 7 "backbone" rings — the trunks of the network — are done, with minor repairs being made along Cunningham Avenue.
— 11 of 12 service areas — more local connections — are complete. The last area, in far-east Urbana, is "lagging."
— About 600 customers are connected of the 1,300 signed up for service.
Smeltzer said he hopes it will be finished by the end of January — that's the deadline for the grant — but he is readying paperwork to ask the federal government for an extension should that not happen.