Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband Not-For-Profit

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Tue, 10/1/2013 - Tue, 2/28/2017
Please note: this program occurred in the past!

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Non-Profit Organization

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Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) is a not-for-profit agency in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. UC2B is both an Internet service provider (ISP) and a physical, fiber-optic broadband infrastructure. The UC2B not-for-profit agency was formed to maintain and expand the network and to operate the ISP that comprise UC2B. The agency oversees the operation of the network, customer service associated with the ISP, and the daily business of both.

UC2B began in 2009 with grant funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to the University of Illinois. Today, UC2B is a collaboration between the University, the City of Urbana, the City of Champaign, and service provider iTV-3. We provide broadband Internet access to residences and business in Urbana-Champaign, including many subscribers who were previously unserved or underserved. This high-speed connectivity promotes educational opportunities, economic growth and job creation, and positive social impacts.


UC2B got its start when the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign became the recipient of a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). UC2B also received a grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), as well as local matching funds from several partners. To utilize the grants and local match funds, the University joined with the cities of Champaign and Urbana to form a Consortium to oversee the construction of a fiber-optic network.


The network consists of fiber optic infrastructure that is the fastest, most state-of-the art-fiber-optic network communication technology on the planet. Under the terms of the UC2B grant, they began the fiber to the premise (FTTP) connections in neighborhoods where broadband adoption was historically at 40% or less. These neighborhoods were determined by the 2000 census. While many of these census block neighborhoods coincide with low-income areas, this was not a basis for providing these connections. In these neighborhoods, UC2B was able to perform the construction and installation at no charge to the customer. They were also able to provide at no cost the construction for FTTP connections to Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) – defined as any institution that could potentially serve a vulnerable population. Despite the initial construction and installation being performed at no charge to the customer, all of the customers must pay a monthly service charge for their UC2B connection. This monthly fee is a discounted rate for the customers who signed up during the initial grant period – as low as $19.99/month for many customers.

UC2B NFP is governed by a board of directors consisting of nine members. The Chancellor of the University of Illinois, the city manager at the city of Champaign, and the mayor of the city of Urbana each appoint three voting board members. Appointees to the board are not required to be employed by or affiliated with the appointing entity. The board of the nonprofit is similar to the former governing body, a diverse group of individuals from various areas of the community.


Expansion was always an integral component of UC2B’s long-term growth plan. The business plan adopted in 2012 by all the member entities of the consortium outlined that expanding to the entire community was a necessary step for UC2B to remain viable. To this end, UC2B sought to expand since the adoption of that business plan.

The expansion effort began in July, 2012, when UC2B took monetary pledges in response to a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by a company called Gigabit Squared. Members of our community could pledge money toward demonstrating that their neighborhood was interested in receiving the service. This model was popularized by Google Fiber when it developed “fiberhoods” in Kansas City, Missouri. While the pledge collection was initially motivated by a desire to demonstrate our community’s interest in one company, UC2B simultaneously decided to issue our own Request for Information (RFI) to explore creative ideas and funding options a potential partner might present to build out the network. We received a handful of viable responses to that RFI.

Before UC2B could partner with any private company, it was crucial to become a not-for-profit (NFP) entity so that they could do business nimbly and effectively in the telecommunications industry. Before UC2B could form an NFP, they had to seek and gain approval from each of the entities of the intergovernmental consortium – the University of Illinois, the City of Champaign, and the City of Urbana. This required action by the city councils of both cities, and the chancellor at the University. All of the member entities approved the creation of a not-for-profit to take over the daily responsibilities of UC2B, as well as to function as a steward for the future of the network and the internet service provider.

UC2B’s initial grant was set to expire on January 31, 2013, but it was clear that date approached that they would not be able to complete all the work they wanted to accomplish by then. They sought approval from the NTIA for a time extension of the grant. No additional funds were requested by or given to UC2B, but the request for a time extension was granted, and they were given until September 30, 2013 to finish building under the provisions of the grant. Within a few weeks after the official end of the grant period, UC2B NFP held its first Board of Directors meeting. On Tuesday, October 29, 2013, the nine directors met for the first time to adopt all transitional items from the Consortium, to establish a meeting schedule, and to consider the future of UC2B. 

On May 29, 2014, UC2B announced a partnership with iTV-3 to operate and extend fiber-optic broadband in Urbana and Champaign. iTV-3 will operate the existing UC2B network and will extend gigabit fiber-optic internet services to more areas of the community. C-U will be among the few elite communities in the U.S. with gigabit fiber-optic internet.

The partnership gives every area of Champaign-Urbana an equal opportunity to receive gigabit service. iTV-3, a Family Video company, will be taking online subscriptions for households and businesses at www.theperfectupgrade.com and information for signing up will be available in person at C-U’s 3 Family Video stores. iTV-3 agrees to build fiber infrastructure in any area of the community where 50% of the potential customers subscribe.

Partners Outside the University of Illinois:

Partners Within the University of Illinois:

  • University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign

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