C-U hopes for Big Broadband grant still alive despite 1st award elsewhere

CHAMPAIGN – Officials are still "cautiously optimistic" about the fate of their $31 million Big Broadband proposal after a federal agency announced its first Illinois award on Friday.

Gov. Pat Quinn was in Sycamore on Friday afternoon to announce that the federal government would release nearly $12 million to develop a high-speed Internet network there. Meanwhile, Champaign-Urbana officials were still wondering whether the governor would have an opportunity to make a similar trip to Champaign.

Public hearing set on cleanup of former base

RANTOUL – Public hearings will be held in Rantoul sometime in May so that citizens can review and comment on proposed cleanup projects at the old Chanute Air Force Base.

Comcast's digital expansion adds to need for converters

URBANA – Comcast will digitize its "expanded basic" channels later this fall, requiring some area customers to get digital set-top boxes and digital adapters.

The change won't take place for several months, but Comcast is encouraging customers to make the change early by providing additional stations to those who do.

Most Comcast customers – about 78 percent nationwide – already subscribe to digital cable, so they won't need to make changes unless they have secondary TVs that aren't properly equipped.

Friends, foes say prominent Dem Gerri Parr was a unifier

Even her political enemies have good things to say about Gerrie Parr, the former Champaign County auditor and Democratic Party chief who died last week at the age of 63.

"Gerrie played tough but she played fair," said Mark Shelden, the Republican Champaign County clerk. "We had some battles, like you would expect that Republicans and Democrats would, but there was never a cheap shot from Gerrie Parr."

Broadband expert forced to postpone Champaign trip for third time

CHAMPAIGN – Apparently the third time was not the charm.

City council members Tuesday will for a third time defer a discussion of the $31 million Big Broadband proposal, after Maryland consultant Doug Dawson informed city officials on Monday that he was still sick and could not make the trip to Champaign.

Volunteers building 'Fab Lab' to teach fabrication skills

URBANA – Volunteers are creating a "Fab Lab" on the University of Illinois campus where school kids and area residents alike can learn fabrication skills.

When completed in a couple months, the lab will join about 40 other Fab Labs around the world where people can design and build their own projects.

The labs are typically equipped with laser cutters, sign cutters and milling machines, as well as electronic assembly and test equipment, power supplies, resistors, capacitors and circuit boards.

It's Your Business: Bender's to add Champaign showroom

Bender's Mattress Factory and Sleep Shoppe in Urbana plans to open another mattress showroom in Champaign at the end of this month.

The store will be at 1207 S. Mattis Ave., in the former Andy's Shoes space near Christie Clinic's CU Sleep, home of the clinic's Department of Sleep Medicine.

Owners Tom and Ryan Bender said they chose the Mattis Avenue location because of the street's high vehicle traffic, but it doesn't hurt to have a sleep clinic nearby, they said.

City may recharge funds for battery recycling program funding

URBANA – The city council may appropriate more funding to its battery recycling program for at least a year when it meets next week.

The council will meet on Monday at 7 p.m. in the City Building, 400 S. Vine St., to decide whether to give an extra $3,000 to the program that a city official said has become more popular.

High-tech language of love on display

A bouquet of flowers or box of chocolates for your valentine? How about an e-valentine instead?

It's not even halfway into the semester yet, and some of the University of Illinois students enrolled in CS 125 (Introduction to Computer Science) have started playing with their newfangled programming skills by creating valentines.

iCyt founder predicts work force will greatly expand

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign-based iCyt Mission Technology could employ hundreds of people within five years if expectations for global opportunities pan out, company founder Gary Durack said Wednesday.

At an event heralding Sony Corp.'s acquisition of iCyt, Durack said it's difficult to predict the future. But he supposed iCyt's employees "could be measured in the hundreds within that time frame."