In 2009 a federal Stimulus Bill grant totaling around $30M was awarded to the Urbana Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) project to lay a metro fiber optic network throughout the local community. The grant would be the only federal Broadband Technology Opportunity Program award to deploy fiber to the premise in an urban area. In January 2013 an extension through September 2013 was given to the project, allowing more of the grant money to be spent, resulting in a handful more anchor institutions and homes being connected.
A community organizing effort lead by African American church leadership in North Champaign resulted in the creation of a Community Benefit Fund in August 2011. According to the resolution passed by the UC2B Policy Board, the purpose of the fund is to achieve digital equality throughout the UC2B service area. A portion (between 2%-5%) of the network’s monthly subscription income is to be allocated to the fund to be spent on digital inclusion efforts promoting educational, economic and cultural use of the UC2B network and digital tools.
During the Spring 2013 semester multiple Community Benefit Fund meetings were being held around town mostly in libraries and churches. In the video below, the architect of the UC2B network and Policy Board member Mike Smeltzer addresses the possible future of an official wireless network extending off the fiber connections of anchor institutions. While at the time of this presentation the wireless network was still in planning stages at best, with the help of a friend I created a map to show a scenario of what a UC2B municipal wireless network might mean for a given neighborhood. Beneath the video is a map showing the anchor institutions who received UC2B fiber in the neighborhood (bordered by University Ave to the south, Bradley Ave to the north, 4th St to the west and Lincoln Ave to the east) and what it might look like if Ubiquiti Picostation2 wireless routers were installed on their roofs. The Picostation2 documentation lists the router’s power as a 500 meter radius. The map below shows a radius of 400 meters for every institution. As you can see nearly 2/3 of the area could be covered by the 13 nearby anchor institutions.