By Mary Ann Ford
As published on the Pantagraph.com
NORMAL — A grant that funded the Central Illinois Regional Broadband Network has been extended to the end of the year, giving Illinois State University more time to transfer the operation over to a new limited liability corporation.
Originally, the grant was slated to end July 31.
Dick Runner, a consultant for the project, told those attending a CIRBN quarterly meeting Wednesday that construction is complete and the network — which took the broadband network to 109 original participants in rural communities and the Twin Cities — is fully operational.
The city of Bloomington, town of Normal, Heartland Community College and ISU have agreed to be partners in an LLC that will run the operation once the grant has formally ended. Representatives from each have been included in discussions regarding the future of CIRBN.
The network is searching for an executive director to manage day-to-day operations and key technical support workers, Runner said.
Meanwhile, the list of potential new customers continues to grow. Steve Menken, manager of CIRBN, said there are upwards of 100 entities that have inquired about joining the network.
Runner said that while the grant covered construction costs and design work for initial participants, the LLC will have to determine how to expand the network and what the charges will be for additional customers.
It also will be up to the LLC to determine a priority list for new customers. One of CIRBN’s initial focuses was to provide high-capacity, fast-moving broadband network to rural areas where it was unavailable. The initial network covers 19 communities and six counties.