& cplSiteName &

Taking a Different Path to 1 Gigabit

Mari Silbey
6/11/2014
50%
50%

The non-profit organization Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) took an important step recently in its efforts to extend development of the Illinois region's gigabit Internet services.

It turned the UC2B fiber network over to a commercial entity.

UC2B partnered with video and broadband company iTV-3 in a deal that has the private firm taking on management of UC2B's existing fiber network and extending the broadband infrastructure to new communities in the Urbana-Champaign area. According to Director of Operations Sabrina Gosnell, once UC2B hands the project to iTV-3, her organization will have the freedom to "start thinking about how to really incorporate this network and this partnership in the community in a way that bolsters things like healthcare and education."

However, Gosnell also acknowledged that UC2B, which only established itself as an official non-profit in late 2013 (after existing as an intergovernmental consortium), may not retain any staff after the iTV-3 transition. The organization does have a nine-member Board of Directors who will stay involved in the broadband initiative even if no paid staffers remain.

So why did UC2B decide to turn its fiber network over to i-TV3? Gosnell said in an interview that the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign never planned on running a broadband service over the long term. "I don't think that was really ever on the table, frankly."

Instead, UC2B had every intention of fulfilling the terms of the broadband grants it received in 2010 (which were supplemented by more than $3 million in local matching funds), and then finding a partner in the private sector to carry the project forward.

Even as UC2B started an expansion drive in 2012 to finish the fiber buildout it had begun two years earlier, the organization began looking for a potential service partner by issuing a public Request for Information (RFI). The RFI went out in August 2012, and over the following year, UC2B accepted submissions from a wide range of respondents.

The process was enlightening.

By September 2013 when UC2B's fiber network was complete, one of the companies that had responded to the RFI was already out of business, and several others clearly didn't meet UC2B's minimum requirements. "[The partner] had to be a company that would adhere to our core values," said Gosnell.

That meant three things. Any partner had to agree to: use fiber to continue network expansion; make service available to any local community wishing to participate in the broadband program; and make access to the UC2B network available to other Internet service providers on a wholesale model.

In addition, UC2B needed a partner that would remain viable as a company and be able to fund continuing expansion on its own.

UC2B didn't share details on all of the companies that responded to its RFI, but the organization did explicitly say that it had reached out to local ISPs including AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), as well as to Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). Among those service providers, there was very little interest in the project. Of the local service providers, Gosnell said "[I] don't know that we were ever even a blip on their radar."

Luckily for UC2B, iTV-3 did respond to the RFI, and the company had significant advantages weighing in its favor. The company is local to Illinois. It has a track record as an Internet service provider. And it was willing to agree to all of UC2B's partnership terms.

Gosnell described iTV-3 as "the right fit for us." Within two months of finishing network construction, UC2B was already in serious talks with iTV-3.

Going forward, iTV-3 will lease UC2B's fiber network and equipment and will spend "tens of millions of dollars" expanding service to new areas across Urbana and Champaign. In any established sector in the region, if 50% of locations sign up for Internet service, iTV-3 must begin construction to extend network access within 120 days.

Initially, iTV-3 will offer Internet and phone service over the UC2B fiber network, and the company has "committed to offering a gigabit Internet service as the top tier" of its residential offerings. iTV-3 plans to add on television service as well, but the company will have to negotiate franchise agreements in order to do so.

According to UC2B, the deal with iTV-3 is an unprecedented public-private partnership. Indeed it does illustrate that there are multiple ways to bring gigabit broadband to a community, particularly when there aren't state laws in place barring municipal broadband projects. (See FCC's Mignon Bashes Anti-Muni Bills.)

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler also praised the initiative saying, "This public-private partnership provides a valuable model for communities and companies throughout the country and a demonstration of the creativity that is stimulated when localities are free to work with the private sector to improve broadband offerings."

Other cities, meanwhile, are trying different methods. Among existing gigabit regions across the US, some cities are partnering with Google for Google Fiber Inc. , and some are starting to see gigabit service from traditional ISPs such as AT&T and Cox Communications Inc. (See AT&T Turns Up Gig Heat in 21 New Metros and Cox Lays Out Gigabit Roadmap .)

In Chattanooga, Tenn., the community-owned utility EPB Fiber Optics has successfully deployed a gigabit network and is now using it not only for residential services, but also to power the city's smart grid communications. In North Carolina, the North Carolina Next Generation Network initiative is combining the efforts of six municipalities and four universities to turn the Research Triangle area into a gigabit community. (See Power Companies Promise Gigabit Broadband and TWC Bids on NC's Next-Gen Network.)

There is also a growing contingent of small telecom companies building out their own gigabit networks to improve local broadband service. (See Gigabit Speeds Come to Rock Hill.)

There is no one tried-and-true formula for bringing high-capacity broadband service to every American city. Instead, as UC2B and others are proving, there are multiple ways to pursue the same gigabit goal. It's still a messy market, but there are some notable examples of successful ventures.

UC2B looks like it could be one of them.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
From The Founder
Either we perform a complete 'factory reset' on the way the telecom industry creates and deploys virtualization, or we face the consequences.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
Infinera Introduces Instant Network

4|20|17   |     |   (0) comments


Mike Capuano, vice president of marketing at Infinera, discusses the advancement from Instant Bandwidth to new Instant Network capabilities, which include Bandwidth License Pools, Moveable Licenses and Automated Capacity Engineering (ACE).
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Vodafone's Eubank on Sponsors, Mentors & Moving On Up

4|19|17   |   4:25   |   (0) comments


Vodafone America's Head of Operations Kimberly Eubank breaks down the difference between a sponsor and a mentor and shares why both made a big difference in her career.
LRTV Custom TV
NYC Auto Show: Are We Smart Yet?

4|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


The auto industry is facing some big transformations as electric vehicles, autonomous technology and connected cars are seen as the future of the industry. During the much-anticipated NY international auto show, there was an emergence of new technology and mobility service on the show floor. Aside from performance, brands like Lincoln, Hyundai, Honda, Mercedes and ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Impact of Video

4|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


David Mercer from Strategy Analytics discusses the impact of video on current strategies.
LRTV Custom TV
Pardeep Kohli Discusses Network Transformation & the Market Opportunity for the 'New' Mavenir Systems

4|13|17   |     |   (0) comments


In a brief discussion at MWC 2017, Heavy Reading analyst Adi Kishore talks to Pardeep Kohli, CEO, Mavenir Systems about the creation of the 'new Mavenir' and some of the key challenges facing operators in today's market. A key theme of the discussion centers around operator need for software-only, virtualized solutions and how they will need to adapt to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Tech Maverick Shares Her Tips for Gender Inclusivity

4|12|17   |   7:28   |   (0) comments


Wendy Hall Bohling, a corporate escapee, author and gender exclusivity consultant, tells her story of sexism, bias and progress along the road to gender equality in the workforce.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei at MWC 2017

4|11|17   |     |   (0) comments


At Mobile World Congress 2017, the biggest mobile industry gathering of the year, Huawei showcased its new innovations and solutions with the theme "Open Road," which focuses on cloud, 5G, operation transformation, videos and consumer-oriented products. Its campaign has been recognized by three awards given by GSMA.
LRTV Custom TV
China Telecom NFV Infrastructure on RSD

4|6|17   |     |   (0) comments


Lynn Comp, senior director of market development of Intel, is joined by Chong Zhang, storage engineer at Inspur and Ou Li Yan, architect for technology strategies of China Telecom on what NFV brings.
LRTV Custom TV
Nokia's IMPACT Software Demo

4|6|17   |     |   (0) comments


Khamis Abulgubein of IoT market development at Nokia demonstrates IMPACT (intelligent management platform for all connected things), a software solution with a horizontal approach to managing any device on any application.
LRTV Custom TV
Nokia Introduces Virtual Service Router for More Rapid Service

4|6|17   |     |   (0) comments


James Cumming, product line manager for virtualized service routers at Nokia, demonstrates how the virtual router based off the Nokia ecosystem changes the network function experience.
LRTV Custom TV
The Keys to SD-WAN Success

4|6|17   |     |   (0) comments


Versa Networks CEO Kelly Ahuja talks about the key requirements for service provider-managed SD-WANs.
LRTV Custom TV
Intel & Cisco on Joint 5G Solutions

4|5|17   |     |   (0) comments


Dave Ward, SVP and CTO of Cisco, is joined by Sandra Rivera, corporate VP and general manager of network platforms group of Intel, on the revolutionary 5G technology that changes networking and computing fundamentally.
Upcoming Live Events
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
May 15, 2017, Brazos Hall - Austin, TX
May 15, 2017, Austin Convention Center - Austin, TX
June 6, 2017, The Joule Hotel, Dallas, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Time for a Telecom Reboot
Steve Saunders, CEO and founder, Light Reading, 4/19/2017
Comcast Ready for Clash With Hulu
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 4/18/2017
Unlicensed: It's What's Next for US Mobile Operators
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/19/2017
Verizon's Fiber Spend Won't End With Corning
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 4/19/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
Animals with Phones
Now That's an Ad Campaign Click Here
Meerkats to the rescue!
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.