From WILL - News Headlines -

Potential UC2B Subscribers Get an Update on Services

The first focus group meeting for potential subscribers to Champaign-Urbana's big broadband project had its share of questions, and there were answers for most of them.

The UC2B project for underserved areas won't be fully on line for about a year. But the first neighborhoods could see it as soon as April. Those include parts of Garden Hills - home for Robert Siedenberg:

"I knew there was fiber to the corner of my yard - I never dreamed it would come to the house," he said. "That's wonderful."

Siedenberg has had internet issues for much of his 10 years in North Garden Hills. After moving there, he discovered his home's all-copper phone lines were 50 to 60 years old. That meant the phone company would frequently switch service to an unused line, for basic dial up service.

"That would be good for a year or two, and by good, I mean it would be functional," said Sidedenberg. "And then we'd have outages again."

Those eligible for UC2B have learned they can expect to pay about 20-dollars for monthly service, and at a speed that's expected to surpass what Comcast and others and provide. It will also serve as an intranet service, allows users to produce content, and connect to anchor institutions like schools and hospitals. Consultant Diane Kruse says she's excited with the response.

"Often, when you're in this business, you're thinking about the plans, and you're deep into the spreadsheets and the numbers and the operating models and the policies," she said. "It's easy to lose focus on the customer."

Canvassers of bid-broadband neighborhoods have hit most areas once, getting replies from about 400 households so far.

About 18 people eligible for the service attended the first focus group meeting on UC2B in Champaign Monday night. Questions ranged from whether a senior on a fixed income could receive a lower rate, and whether current providers, like Comcast would end up offering more competitive rates as a result of UC2B.