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Improving Broadband Service is County Board’s Study Session Topic

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A telecom tower rises from a cornfield, located just outside the village of Sidney in Champaign County.

URBANA – The Champaign County Board is getting ready to study ways to improve local broadband.  That includes a Finance Committee-of-the-Whole study session Tuesday evening, June 29, beginning at 6 PM at the county’s Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana.

The county board is considering spending some of Champaign County’s more than $40 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to upgrade broadband service in the county.

The agenda calls for presentations and discussion from representatives of the Champaign County Farm Bureau, the Housing Authority of Champaign County, the community  broadband organization UC2B and local telecom providers Comcast, i3 Broadband, Pavlov Media and Volo Broadband.

County Board Vice-Chair for Finance Stephanie Fortado says she believes the testimony and discussion from sectors of the county seeking better broadband service, and local providers, will help the county board formulate a plan to improve service.

“And then we can match up those directions with available funding, and make sure that everybody in our county, whether they live in an urban area, or they live in a rural area, has access to quality broadband,” said Fortado.

Other County Board Broadband Actions

Last week, the Champaign County Board voted to create a broadband task force, and to issue a Request for Proposals for a consulting firm to study the issue.

County Board Chair Kyle Patterson says the task force will include county board members and staff, as well as members of the community.

“At this point, we’re just exploring to see exactly what the need is,” said Patterson. “Because we know there is a need, but we don’t know what are the specific logistics of it.  Where does expansion need to happen? How do you connect those networks?”

The study of Champaign County broadband is expected to cost less than $50,000, according to the resolution passed by the county board.  And for that price, the county seeks a study that will “determine current broadband coverage (in Champaign County), identify service providers and potential partners for broadband expansion, identify strategies for increasing affordable access, and identify potential federal and state grant resources for expansion efforts”.

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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