Regional broadband network set for Aug. 1 debut

NORMAL — The Central Illinois Regional Broadband Network is on track to go live by Aug. 1.

The project is being coordinated by Illinois State University. Consultant Dick Runner said Monday that service proposals — which include rate information — are being mailed to the first groups to reap the benefits of the high-speed Internet project.

Schools already received their proposals so they can meet deadlines for a federal reimbursement program, said Scott Genung, director of telecommunications and networking at ISU. Schools are reimbursed for telecommunications, such as Internet, based on the number of free and reduced lunches served.

Genung said rates will not be disclosed until all participants have received their service proposals. The rate structure is complicated, he told a general meeting of supporters, because it takes into consideration any credits an entity might receive for offering in-kind services.

Heath Henderson, director of technology at LeRoy school d istrict, was expecting a much lower cost because a federal grant helped cover the set-up costs. ISU received a $15.6 million federal stimulus grant for the project. Participants contributed a total of $2 million to the project through funding and/or in-kind services. LeRoy’s share was $5,500.

“We estimated our (monthly service) cost would be lower and we’d get a higher band width,” said Henderson.

Instead, he said, the cost is very similar to what the district currently pays for Internet — about $930 a month.

Daniel Zobel, director of technology at Heyworth School District, agreed.

“It’s 50 percent higher than what we planned,” Zobel said. “We were set to save money per month and per year. I sold it to everyone in Heyworth … that it would be a cost savings and we would reap the benefit of bandwidth.”

Instead, he said the cost will be about what the district currently is paying — about $1,320 a month.

Zobel said Heyworth already had conduit in place so CIRBN didn’t have to dig and place new conduit; it could put the fiber optic in the existing conduit.

“I didn’t see a credit for that,” he said.

Genung said it’s never been CIBRN’s goal to compete or undersell what other broadband services provide. Instead, the objective is to deliver a high-capacity, fast-moving broadband network, especially to rural areas where it’s currently unavailable.

“When I saw ours (rate), I was excited,” said Jim Henehan, director of technology at Central Catholic High School. “It matched what we pay to Comcast but increased the bandwidth.”

A wider bandwidth allows schools to have access to additional educational materials, such as teleconferences with scientist in other countries or collaborations with other school districts.

Zobel and Henderson agreed the wider bandwidth is a big positive but may be more than the schools presently need.

Meanwhile, Runner said discussions are under way to seat members of the board that will operate the network. CIRBN has formed a limited liability corporation.

The board will, among other things, also decide how to address the 60 or so additional groups that want to join the network. CIRBN has 109 organizations with 241 sites in 19 communities and six counties.

Original post can be found here. 

Tags: Bloomington, Central Illinois Regional Broadband Network, CIRBN, Normal, Scott Genung

« Return to Illinois Broadband