Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Nonprofit To Oversee Broadband Network

The city councils of two Central Illinois towns have approved a measure that would create a private nonprofit to oversee a large broadband network running through both locations.

The Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband network (UC2B) was created by the towns of Urbana and Champaign to boost Internet access in low-income areas, but there were concerns over government control of the network. That's why, according to a report in The News Gazette, both city councils passed the bill to have it run by a nonprofit.

Before it could pass, however, several key changes had to be made to the bill. This includes a requirement that the nonprofit submit an annual report to the cities and that the network's high, self-imposed standards for procuring minority contractors be maintained. Another key provision, which was critical to gain the support of Urbana Alderman Charlie Smyth, was to allow attendees of the organization's board meeting to provide their input.

The board will not have to follow Illinois' Open Meetings Act, which has strict requirements for advance public notification of meetings and the accessibility of meetings. Council members in Urbana and Champaign believed those requirements would hurt the board's efficiency.

The UC2B network, which cost $30 million to create, is currently being funded by a federal grant created in 2010. That grant expires on Sept. 30 and at that time, much of the expenses will fall on the shoulders of local governments. City officials are confident that it will only need support from the cities for the first six months, just to get it off the ground.

The nonprofit overseeing UC2B, which has not yet been given a name, will be governed by a nine-member board, and the cities of Champaign and Urbana and the University of Illinois will each appoint three members to that board.

You can read the full story in The News Gazette.

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