UC2B breaks ground in big broadband project
CHAMPAIGN - A crowd gathered in Douglas Park near several trucks loaded with thick orange cable for the September 6 ground-breaking ceremony of the Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband project, a collaborative effort to build 293 miles of fiber-optic cable throughout the community in the next year and a half.
A group of fifth grad students came from the nearby Booker T. Washington Elementary School with their teachers and principal, to witness the beginning of the $29.4 million project that will bring high-speed broadband to the communities’ schools and libraries, government and public safety agencies, medical institutions and many others.
UC2B, the organization’s short name, is a collaboration of the University of Illinois and the cities of Urbana and Champaign. The project will reach over 10,000 residents, who had less than 41 percent of broadband adoption in a door-to-door survey, and 200 businesses.
Champaign City Council member Deb Frank-Feinen and Urbana City Council member Brandon Bowersox, the chair and vice chair of UC2B Policy Board, welcomed supporters with introductory remarks.
The mayors of Champaign and Urbana, Donald Gerard and Laurel Prussing, spoke at the ground-breaking ceremony about the tremendous opportunities the UC2B program would bring to their cities.
Robert Easter, U of I interim vice president and chancellor, said the project demonstrated the strength of partnerships in the community.
Illinois 52nd District State Sen. Michael Frerichs and 103rd Discrict Rep. Naomi Jakobsson addressed the audience. Sen. Frerichs said it was a great program and Illinois needs to invest in its communities to make sure no one gets left behind as technology advances.
Representatives from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn’s offices, staff assistant Jason Cajindos and Lori Sorenson respectively, were also at the ceremony and gave supportive remarks.
The project is funded with $22.5 million in federal stimulus money from the U.S. Department of Commerce, $3.5 from the state of Illinois and $3.4 million through local organizations.
Partnership for a Connected Illinois board member and the director of network communications at U of I Michael Smeltzer, PCI’s broadband impact director Bob Flider and other PCI staff members attended the ground breaking.