Written by Steven Keith
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 00:00
NORMAL — In June or July, a fiber-optic broadband network will start delivering high-speed Internet and Intranet service to 241 institutions in McLean, Woodford, Livingston, Logan, Piatt and DeWitt counties.
Illinois State University (ISU) is leading the network called the Central Illinois Regional Broadband Network (CIRBN).
The CIRBN was created to provide high-speed Internet service to rural areas and connect public sectors to the Illinois Century Network (ICN), a telecommunications backbone that provides high-speed access to data, video and audio communication in schools and libraries at colleges and universities to public libraries, museums, as well as local government and state agencies.
To receive materials distributed through the ICN, some public sectors have to travel to host facilities and download the material from a local server drive. As a method of quickening the process of transferring material from ICN host facilities to public sectors, the idea of creating the CIRBN was developed, in 2009.
In the spring of 2010, ISU, an ICN host facility, submitted an application for a federal grant distributed through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program that would help finance the creation of the CIRBN. They later received a $15.6 million federal stimulus grant for the $96 million project.
As a result of a partnership with the Illinois Broadband Opportunity Partnership-East Central Region (IBOP-EC) fiber-optic network that will connect 3,138 anchor institutions, including 21 community colleges across 55 counties in the eastern, central and northern portions of Illinois, the State of Illinois agreed to match around $34 million in local funds for the CIRBN project
“Their focus is to build fiber optics all across the state, about 1,700 miles of it,” said ISU Director of Telecommunications and Networking Scott Genung. “Our focus was to build fiber optics within targeted communities to connect facilities and organizations together. That’s how we got to a combined application. That was submitted at the end of March 2010. And then in late July of that year is when we discovered that there would be an award. At that point in time we were told you have three years to build this.
“We’re in the third quarter of the third year of the project. There’s only one quarter left before the project is complete and so we’re wrapping up a lot of construction efforts with the target schedule of June or July of this year actually being able to deliver services.”
Broadband is frequently limited to 1-2 Megabits per second (Mbps) per facility in many rural communities. The CIRBN will provide broadband speeds ranging from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps (Gigabits per second).
According to Genung, around 25 school districts will utilize the CIRBN.
“For privacy reasons we aren’t specifically identifying all of the grant participants because we’ve been asked not to,” said Genung. “Right now there is about 25 school districts. It’s a combination of both public and private school districts.”
In addition to school districts, healthcare, public safety, government, not-for-profit and commercial institutions across central Illinois will utilize the CIRBN. Participants of the CIRBN have contributed around $2 million to the project through funding and/or in-kind services.
Sixteen communities, including Bloomington-Normal, Atlanta, Arrowsmith, Colfax, Danvers, Downs, El Paso, Eureka, Farmer City, Gridley, Hudson, Heyworth, Lexington, Mansfield, Pontiac and Towanda, are participating in the CIRBN. Other communities and neighboring counties will be able to connect to the CIRBN.
“What we’re doing is not unique,” said Genung. “It can be expanded within this market or it can be taken to other markets. We’ve already been approached by a couple of service providers about wanting to go to other communities and other counties and certainly, that’s ok.”
A not-for-profit limited liability corporation (LLC) that formed in August will operate the CIRBN and decide which communities can connect to the fiber optic network.
“The operational responsibilities for this network will be handed to our LLC,” said Genung. “They’ll make strategic decisions about where this network goes. For example, do they want this network to expand into neighboring communities or counties or whatever?”
Members of the LLC board will be appointed before Aug. 1 when ISU is obligated to complete the CIRBN project to be eligible for the $34 million state grant.
To learn more about the CIRBN, visit www.cirbn.org.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 13:50