UC2B Expansion

In July 2012, UC2B responded to a Request for Proposals (RFP) released by Gigabit Squared (GB2). The RFP was issued to certain Universities and their surrounding communities seeking interesting opportunities to increase access to and use of high-speed fiber-optic broadband. Part of UC2B’s response to that RFP included a local pledge campaign which was critical in demonstrating to GB2 that Champaign, Urbana and Savoy wanted broadband.

Now, we are pleased to announce that UC2B has made GB2’s short list of communities they are talking to about making a significant private investment to increase the availability of fiber-based broadband. More than 500 families and businesses in our community have pre-committed more than $395,000 in cash and pledges to getting fiber-based broadband access. That effort was instrumental advancing us to the final stage of GB2′s process. Those funds, your funds, remain in escrow at Busey Bank.

Since July 2012, GB2 announced two similar projects that were negotiated outside of the RFP process that we were involved in. In November, 2012, GB2 announced a project in partnership with the University of Chicago, the State of Illinois, and the City of Chicago to build Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) in the areas around the University of Chicago on the City’s south side. That multi-year commitment is more modest in scope than what UC2B proposed to GB2.

In December 2012, GB2 announced a project with the University of Washington and the City of Seattle to build FTTP in several neighborhoods in Seattle that are mostly centered around the University. In terms of the total number of homes and businesses potentially served, that project is equivalent in scope to what UC2B has proposed to GB2 for our community.

With these announcements, GB2 has made it apparent that it is committed to making significant private investments in University communities. Champaign, Urbana and Savoy, along with the University of Illinois may be next on GB2’s list. UC2B representatives will be exploring opportunities for GB2 investment beginning in March.

ADDITIONAL OPTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION

UC2B’s Request for Information (RFI): In anticipation that UC2B would make GB2′s short list and enter into discussions with them, last Fall UC2B conducted its own RFI process to see if there were other organizations that would be interested in investing in our community under the same core principles that we had proposed to GB2. There were more than a half-dozen responses to that RFI, three of which UC2B will initiate further conversation with this month, as well.

A detailed list of those core principles, which were approved by both Cities and the UC2B Policy Committee and contained in the UC2B RFI, is available at: www.uc2b.net/expansion/principles/.

In summary, below are the three core principles that will guide UC2B’s discussions with all four of these organizations.

1. The network must be fiber, not alternative technologies, offering high speeds.
2. There must be open access to enable fair and open competition forever.
3. The network must be built to all members of the community, no redlining.

UC2B will provide electronic updates on the process as additional information becomes available. We anticipate that a preferred expansion partner will be selected from the four interested parties in the next 3-6 months. Once a preferred partner is selected, negotiations will begin in earnest to complete a deal so that further expansion of the UC2B fiber network can begin in 2013!

Further Developments on the UC2B Front
NTIA BTOP Grant Extended: Last week, the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) division of the U.S. Department of Commerce officially approved an extension for UC2B to complete the Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant-funded construction through September 30, 2013. NTIA also approved and designated an additional 61 organizations as Community Anchor Institutions. That designation means that UC2B will be able to use grant funds to build fiber to those locations.

While as of today we have connected more than 850 locations to UC2B fiber, that is far less than we had hoped for, and also less than the number of families and businesses that had signed up for service. By last Thursday, which was the original end of the BTOP grant period, we had simply run out of time to complete construction, so we asked for and received more time to complete the project.

This extension of time means several things:
Last Chance: Households and businesses in the 11 Census Block Groups that are eligible for free Fiber-to-the-Premise installation will have one last chance to sign up for service in February. Community Anchor Institutions on the NTIA-approved list will also be able to sign up for service through March 1st, which will be the last day for all sign ups.

A New Fiber Construction Contract: UC2B will be going out to bid for the remaining FTTP fiber construction and construction to the additional Community Anchor Institutions. That bidding process will take us through these winter months and will hopefully result in a new fiber construction contract being awarded by June, 2013.

Unfinished Business: As of today, there are still several hundred households and businesses that have signed up for UC2B service but have not been installed yet. That work will start in June after the new construction contract has been awarded. While the delay is unfortunate, we have learned a lot from our experience over the last two years, and that experience will be reflected in the bid documents and the contract awarded for this remaining work. So while you will not see installation crews out in the snow this winter, behind the scenes, we will be planning for a new installation process starting in June.

For those in the grant-eligible service area, the deadline to sign up has passed. The last day for subscriptions was March 1, 2013.

If your home or business is outside the grant-eligible areas or if you missed the sign-up deadline for free installation within the grant-eligible areas, please be patient over the next 3-6 months as we work diligently to secure a private partner to make the investment necessary to bring fiber to you. As noted above, we will provide updates about the process as it progresses.

For additional information or questions, please contact expansion@uc2b.net or phone 217/366-UC2B (8222).