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Congressional hearing highlights challenges accessing broadband service

By Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media -- People who live in a city may take broadband Internet service for granted. But in many rural areas, broadband service is hard or even impossible to obtain.

The issue of broadband access was the spotlight of a recent congressional field hearing in Springfield. (Listen to the audio story here

Screen shot from - a tool that helps consumers analyze broadband access in their communities

Comcast offers lnternet plan for low-income households

By Sean Powers/Illinois Public Media/ Comcast has unveiled a program, known as “Internet Essentials”, to expand Internet access for about $10 a month to low-income families.

The cable and Internet provider wants to make the program available next month in 39 states, including Illinois, where the company’s Internet service is offered. Comcast spokesman Jack Segal said eligible families must have at least one child receiving free school lunches through the National School Lunch Program. He estimates that lunch program is open to more than 4,500 students in Champaign and Urbana.

Screen shot of Comcast's new low-cost Internet plan

Symposium connects groups and technology; ways to bridge local digital divide

CU-CitizenAccess was at eBlack Champaign-Urbana's Campus-Community Symposium this weekend to cover the discussion between groups and organizations on how to better connect the community and technology.

This two-day symposium aimed to take a step toward bridging the digital divide between underserved residents and available technological resources.
As the Big Broadband project nears construction, groups and organizations are looking at ways to use the super-fast network to benefit those residents who are in the most need of training, employment, education and digital literacy.

Discussion panels ranged from community engagement, social services and technology, education, youth and technology, religious groups and technology and media and technology.

Click on a sess

Potential users imagine benefits of Big Broadband in Champaign-Urbana

By Joel Steinfeldt — This summer, Tanya Weatherly will again decide between having Internet access at home and paying her other utility bills.

Robert K. O'Danielle - The News-Gazette/May 26, 2010.

Program offers skills, computers

By Steve Bauer— Brian Bell is finding new homes for computers through a program at Parkland Community College.

The entry-level class for computer maintenance is also helping some people to bridge what is called the “digital divide.”

The News-Gazette/Richard Smith works at his computer in his home in Champaign on Thursday, May 27, 2010.

Two federal grant requests denied in first round of Big Broadband action

CHAMPAIGN -- Local broadband officials are hoping two federal grants to support the Big Broadband project will be redeemed in a second round of funding after they were denied in the first.

But without those two support grants, some officials say the high-speed Internet infrastructure, already being questioned by some elected representatives, could be less effective than they originally planned.

The News-Gazette/Peter Resnick, right, gives an update about the broadband grant application to Giraldo Rosales, left, and others on the Champaign-Urbana Cable Commission at Champaign City Council chambers in Champaign, Ill on Jan. 13, 2010

Extras: Big Broadband

A consortium composed of the cities of Urbana and Champaign and the University of Illinois submitted in August three related proposals to the federal government applying for stimulus funding to improve broadband Internet access in the area.

But why does Urbana-Champaign need “big broadband” Internet service in the first place? How will the proposed network connect homes and community institutions? How will this network be paid for and governed? How does the technology work and what does this all mean?

Marie Wilson/ Sheila Miller loads one end of a fiber into an arc fusion splicer, which heats and connects the strands. Splicing 12 strands, the number in a normal cable, takes about three hours, she said.

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