Broadband on schedule - Effort moves into Sterling and Fulton

Organizers say they are impressed with the progress of work crews laying in new fiber optic cable for the large-scale broadband project in this region, and that favorable weather in December and early January has allowed the effort to stay on schedule.

Recently, the Illinois Fiber Resources Group (iFiber) announced that the project had hit another major milestone, with work crews entering the city limits of Sterling and Fulton for the first time. All in all, the $69 million project is proceeding as planned, said Daniel Payette, this region’s outreach coordinator for the broadband effort.

“I think it’s important to the extent that they’ve managed to keep to the timeline for the project,” Payette said. “The weather has been incredibly good, so that’s helped in meeting those benchmarks.”
With freezing temperatures hitting the area this week, work on the project will slow down somewhat. Still, Payette said the crews have laid over 130 miles of new fiber conduit so far and will continue to move forward.

According to Payette, the Lee County portion of the project is over 89 percent complete, and Ogle County is between 50 to 60 percent done. Progress has also been made in Stephenson County as crews have laid a “fair amount” of conduit between Freeport and Orangeville, and south of Freeport to Forreston along Illinois 26. Conduit is also being installed south of Pearl City to the Carroll County line.

Payette estimated that communities and anchor institutions in Lee County may begin to use the network this spring as organizers move from the construction phase to the connectivity/service phase. The overall project has to be completed by June 2013.

“There’s a significant amount of conduit that’s in for some of the counties,” Payette said.
A ground-breaking ceremony was held in late August 2011 to signal the start of construction for the broadband project. The iFiber Group, which is coordinating the initiative, selected three firms to handle the construction. The first contractor chosen was the PirTano Construction Company, which is working on the northwest section of the project that includes Jo Daviess, Lee, Carroll, and Whiteside counties.

The final two contractors chosen, Aldridge Electric and Kelso-Burnett, are working as a team to complete the eastern portion of the project, which includes Stephenson, Ogle. Boone, LaSalle, and Winnebago counties.

Project Goals

The current plan is to install 637 miles of new fiber, and to incorporate 233 miles of existing fiber into the system, creating a nearly 900 mile network across Northwest Illinois. The project is designed to improve high-speed Internet access for schools, hospitals, and government buildings in the region, and the goal is to concentrate on under-served areas.

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Tags: broadband, iFiber, Illinois Fiber Resources Group

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