Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) announced a partnership with private company iTV-3, in a move that will transfer operations of day-to-day functions to iTV-3 in June, according to a press release by UC2B Thursday.
The move was hailed by public officials of Urbana, Champaign, and the University of Illinois, with officials noting the “positive local impact” of the project and the impact increased access to a gigabit high-speed network will have on the local community.
“We are excited at both the prospects of greater access for all of our community as well as looking forward to the positive economic impact it will have for all of East Central Illinois,” University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise said.
The move came amid speculation that UC2B was close to an agreement with a private company, and the announcement marks the start of a transition for the organization, as day-to-day operations and network maintenance will be transferred over to iTV-3.
Brandon Bowersox-Johnson, the Chairman of the Board of Directors, said in an interview that bringing gigabit service to the community means a whole new level of innovation will be possible. Some examples he mentioned include innovations in healthcare, education, and home-based businesses.
iTV-3 is a subsidiary of the company that owns and operates Family Video. Someone with mutual knowledge of UC2B and iTV-3 introduced representatives from the two organizations together in October 2013. iTV-3 quickly rose to the top of the pack of companies UC2B was considering partnering with, due to their “exceptional community values,” Bowersox-Johnson said.
One of the criteria mentioned by UC2B representatives as being important for the selection of a partner was the adherence and embodiment to the three core values of UC2B. iTV-3, according to Bowersox-Johnson, was able to sit down at the table and map out a partnership that met those community broadband principles.
iTV-3 plans to expand the gigabit broadband network by providing an online “transparent subscription process,” where iTV-3 will provide a map on their website showing the Champaign-Urbana community, in what neighborhoods people are signing up and what rankings (based on a percentage of people signing up) the neighborhoods have. Construction in new neighborhoods will start when 50 percent of a neighborhood’s population has signed up for a subscription.
When asked if he was concerned about the ability of iTV-3 to handle the day-to-day operations, Bowersox-Johnson said, “No, they have a track record of being in the [Internet Service Provider] business since the 1990s and the fiber business since 2009 and we specifically chose them because they have a proven record of doing this and doing this well.”
UC2B is set to transfer day-to-day operations, customer support, and billing to iTV-3 starting in June. Construction for expanding the network will start later this summer, with iTV-3 committing to start construction on any sector that reaches the 50 percent threshold within 120 days. According to the press release, iTV-3 will invest tens of millions of dollars in construction of expanding the network.
iTV-3 is also pledging to fund UC2B’s Community Benefit fund for five years, though the exact amount remains undisclosed. The Community Benefit fund will be used to promote digital literacy and digital inclusion within the community.
iTV-3 will initially offer telephone and Internet services and other ISPs, such as local companies like Volo Broadband and Pavlov Media and national companies like AT&T and Comcast, have the option of buying wholesale services from iTV-3 to distribute their own brand of service over the broadband network.
With day-to-day operations, customer support, and billing transferred to iTV-3, UC2B will turn its focus as a not-for-profit organization to community outreach and digital literacy, Bowersox-Johnson said.
Although specifics are vague at the moment, public officials in all three of the original organizations involved in the formation of UC2B agree that the project will have a positive impact in the community.
Champaign Mayor Don Gerard said, “Champaign, like Chattanooga, Kansas City and Austin, has recently received national and international accolades running the gamut from arts and music to sustainability, livability and opportunities. We now join these cities as part of an elite group of communities which will experience all the benefits of broadband fiber with this partnership. Champaign, Urbana, the University of Illinois and the private sector are moving forward together to lead the U.S. in prosperity and growth in the new frontier with what is undoubtedly the next great revolution.”
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing added, “This has been a great example of cooperation between Urbana, Champaign and the University of Illinois. I’m very pleased we’ve chosen an Illinois company, Family Video, with an excellent record of customer service. We owe a special thanks to President Obama for his broadband initiative, which will make this community more attractive for both business investment and quality of life.”
UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise said, “From the early steps of winning the UC2B grant to the start of operations, this has been a strong and productive collaboration among Urbana, Champaign and the university. The partnership with an Illinois company, iTV-3, will move the project forward to the next phase of the broadband build.”
Even FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “Congratulations to Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) and iTV-3 on making gigabit services over fiber available throughout the community. This public-private partnership provides a valuable model for communities and companies throughout the country and a demonstration of the creativity that is stimulated when localities are free to work with the private sector to improve broadband offerings.”
Finally, iTV-3 President Keith Hoogland remarked, “We are excited to be bringing fiber optic service to the communities of Champaign and Urbana. I would like to specifically thank the Cities of Champaign and Urbana, their elected officials, the University of Illinois, and the team at UC2B for working so hard to make this opportunity possible. We look forward to bringing a 100% fiber to the home and business network and gigabit Internet service to the people of Champaign and Urbana.”
For more information, visit www.uc2b.net.
Video coverage by Sam Geneser & Fixed Media.