Building the fast track
Until recently, most residents and business owners in Princeton, Ill., who wanted Internet access used dial-up connections because telecommunications companies were hesitant to build broadband infrastructure in the town of 8,000. But, when major employers in the city began leaving, and others threatened to relocate unless Internet access was better, the city had to do something.
In 2004, the Princeton Electric and Telecommunications Department began installing 22 miles of fiber optic cable around the city to create the backbone of a high-speed Internet network. It extended fiber optic connections to major employers, but the cost to extend them to all residents would have been prohibitive.
To bridge the gap between homes and the fiber network, the electric department arranged a partnership with a wireless Internet service provider (ISP), Peru, Ill.-based Connecting Point/IVNet, to offer broadband over power line (BPL) service. The city’s electric crews installed hardware on the existing electricity infrastructure to carry the Internet over the community’s power lines. Residents who want to use the $24.99 monthly service sign up with the ISP and receive a modem that plugs into any electric outlet in their homes. They connect the modem to their computer for Internet access at speeds comparable to digital subscriber lines (DSL) from phone companies. The city and the ISP share costs and revenues for the project.
The Electric Department finished installing BPL equipment in January, and 200 residents have signed up for the service so far. Seeing the interest from residents, the phone and cable companies began offering DSL and cable Internet in the community. “[Our customers] have multiple choices, and not only can they choose based off price, they can choose based off service,” says Jason Bird, electric and telecommunications superintendent.
The companies that were considering moving out of the community have stayed and connected to the fiber optic network. The city also has set up two wireless hotspots that use BPL, and it received a federal grant to help build a technology office park that would connect to the high-speed network. Princeton also has worked with the University of Illinois Extension to set up a video-conferencing center that is available free to non-profit groups, schools and government agencies, and for a rental fee to businesses. “The city has been selected as one of the few sites in Illinois where people can visit troops in Iraq at Christmas time through video conferencing,” Bird says. “Those opportunities wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have this type of infrastructure.”
Broadband over power line
Peru, Ill.-based Connecting Point/IVNet