Illinois, Virginia cities explore faster Internet

More details are emerging about what's called the Big Broadband project to deliver high-speed Internet to underserved areas in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., as the local government pushes forward with a plan to use $22.5 million in federal money to connect homes and 137 buildings. Since this is a college town, the University of Illinois is sharing in the bounty and the network.

Officials estimate that 2,500 of the 4,650 homes passed will subscribe to the service and have set prices accordingly, with basic Internet (enough to power one HDTV and Internet surfing) at $19.99 per month and a power user special (enough to drive 10 HDTVs and surf the Internet) at $85.99.

In Danville, Va., initial results from Gamewood, a company charged with providing Internet and TV service as part the city's proposed FTTH project, indicate enough interest to keep moving ahead with a municipal build. Gamewood sent postcards to more than 1,000 homes asking residents if they're interested in city-supplied high-speed broadband service. Twenty-two percent responded and 83 percent of them said they're interested in at least learning more about the project.

Now the city must decide if that's enough interest to borrow $2.5 million for a pilot program of high-speed data and/or IPTV for 2,500 to 3,000 homes. In convoluted accounting that would make the IRS proud, Danville Utilities would run the broadband service to a box mounted on the house and charge $8.80 a month for it. Gamewood would then bill for actual services and pay the city 20 percent of those charges as an access fee for the cable. Got it?

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