Central Illinois Regional Broadband Network Bridges Digital Divide in Rural Areas


CIRBNBroadband Illinois interviewed Scott Genung, Director of Telecommunications and Networking at Illinois State University, on the progress and goals of the Central Illinois Regional Broadband Network (CIRBN). The network, based out of Normal, is a federally funded project designed to provide high-speed, low-cost Internet connectivity to community anchor institutions (CAIs) and communities throughout Central Illinois. CIRBN will serve rural communities as well as K-12 school districts, healthcare, public safety, government, not-for-profit, and commercial institutions. The project is scheduled to be completed in Summer 2013! 


Tell us about CIRBN. What are you and your subscribers most excited about?

Many of CIRBN’s subscribers are eager to have access to significantly more bandwidth as it will allow them to more effectively scale their current use of the Internet. More importantly, it will create opportunities for doing new things that are transformational. There are a number of cloud computing solutions available on the Internet and even a few that will be directly connected to CIRBN. These offerings will allow CIRBN subscribers to store data off site and utilize hosted IT solutions which can soften the significant burden of purchasing and managing all of these systems locally. While CIRBN will not be offering these services directly, it is because of the significant capacity that will be offered through CIRBN that subscribers can effectively utilize these services. There is a wide digital divide in many of the rural communities compared to metropolitan areas, and this broadband project will close that gap, opening a world of opportunity for the region.

CIRBNWhat services will CIRBIN provide?

We will be offering high-speed metro Ethernet that offers both Internet and intranet service  for organizational connectivity, service provider bandwidth for ISPs who are looking to improve or expand their service offerings, and dark fiber leases to help other organizations build private networks as needed. This array of services allows us to partner with organizations in healthcare, government, business, education, public safety, and nonprofit sectors, in addition to working with established service providers to reach underserved areas. The entire network is completely new infrastructure and will replace outdated technology with state-of-the-art fiber optics. Our customers will enjoy connectivity speeds hundreds of times faster than what they’re currently receiving, often at a fraction of the cost of what they’re currently paying. The implementation of CIRBN is completely funded through the BTOP grants, with matching state dollars, as well as cash and in-kind contributions of grant participants.

What are some of your greatest challenges in completing this project?

We have been very fortunate to have a group of communities and organizations that recognize high-speed Internet as a means to grow and expand. Conversations about creating a network like CIRBN began with leaders from these communities many years ago, so our participants were eager to see a project move forward. In addition to our participants, CIRBN keeps in regular contact with organizations that are interested in the project. We consider having high community interest and more entities asking to be involved to be a great problem to have!

CIRBNWhere can we learn more about CIRBN?

CIRBN has a bimonthly newsletter that we send out to constituents to keep them informed about construction, contracts that have been awarded, participant profiles, as well as broadband projects throughout the state and nation. It is exciting that high-speed Internet is being embraced across the nation. We share this as much as possible so our partners see that even CIRBN is a part of something bigger. Articles, progress indicators, and a map of the network are also available at our website www.CIRBN.org.

Tags: BTOP, CIRBN, Digital Divide, fiber, project, rural areas

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