The National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) division of the U.S. Department of Commerce officially approved an extension for UC2B to complete the Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant-funded construction through September 30, 2013 (previous deadline: January 31, 2013). NTIA also approved and designated an additional 61 organizations as Community Anchor Institutions, including the United Way of Champaign County, New Hope Church of God in Christ, Family Services, and many other governmental and service-related organizations. That designation means that UC2B will be able to use grant funds to extend fiber to those new locations, without construction-related cost to the institution. Michael K. Smeltzer, UC2B Principal Investigator and CITES Director of Networking at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said, “While as of today, we have connected more than 850 locations to UC2B fiber, that is far less than the 2,700 we had hoped for. We are committed to helping as many people as possible get connected to the Internet and our state of the art community broadband network.”
This extension of time means several things:
Last Chance: Households and businesses in the 11 Census Block Groups that are eligible for free Fiber-to-the-Premise installation, along with these new Community Anchor Institutions will also be able to sign up for service through March 1st, 2013, the last day for all sign ups.
Unfinished Business: As of today, there are still households and businesses that have signed up for UC2B service but have not been installed yet. UC2B is contacting those customers now to advise them of the status of their subscriptions. Those installations will begin again in June once a new construction contract has been awarded. Smeltzer said, “While the delay is unfortunate, we have learned a lot from our experience over the last two years, and that experience will be reflected in the bid documents, which are currently under design. So while you will not see installation crews out in the snow and ice this winter, behind the scenes, we are planning for a new construction season starting in June.”
UC2B encourages those interested to “take the service for a test drive and kick the tires.” Eligible residents still have until March 1st to sign up for service. By January 31st, which was the original end of the BTOP grant period, UC2B had simply run out of time to complete construction, so it asked for and received more time to complete the project. For homes or businesses outside the grant-eligible areas, UC2B is working hard over the next 3-5 months to secure a private partner to make the investment necessary to bring fiber to local residents.
Champaign Mayor Don Gerard also recognizes the importance of this extension and commented that “The digital divide is real in our community and we need to ensure that every member of our community has access to UC2B, whether through the grant-funded project, or through expansion efforts that are underway.”
In 2010, UC2B received a $22.5 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant from the US Department of Commerce and a $3.5 million Illinois Jobs Now grant from the State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Local public and private partners provided $3.4 million in matching funds. UC2B is an intergovernmental consortium of the Cities of Urbana and Champaign and the University of Illinois organized to construct and operate a fiber optic network throughout the community and to connect community anchor institutions and residents and businesses in underserved areas of our communities.
For more information about UC2B, visit www.uc2b.net.