STERLING – Traffic has not yet started on the region’s new information highway, even though much of it has been paved.
The iFiber project, expected to increase Internet speeds for participants and help the region attract and retain businesses, is nearing completion. Some local agencies have fiber laid and are waiting for Internet service to start up.
The $69 million project is coordinated by the nonprofit Illinois Fiber Resources Group. iFiber is a collaboration of representatives from Northern Illinois University, LaSalle County, North Central Illinois Council of Governments, the city of Rockford, Boone County and Blackhawk Hills Regional Council.
iFiber will connect schools, municipalities, libraries, community colleges and public safety and health care agencies.
A 3-year grant administered by NIU is funding the project, which started in September 2010.
About 580 miles of fiber duct conduit have been installed, and 530 miles of fiber optics have been put into them, iFiber spokeswoman Kathy Siebrasse said. When the project is done, 900 miles will be laid.
In Lee County, 46 miles of fiber optics have been laid, and 80 miles have been laid in Whiteside County.
The project has created 378 jobs since it began, primarily construction-related, with some engineering and administration jobs.
The project is expected to be complete in September.
Maintenance fees will vary from $1,200 to $7,200 a year, based on the size of the organization.
Here are updates on which local cities and schools have hooked up:
Lawyers for iFiber and the city of Rock Falls are finalizing a contract in which iFiber would lease dark fiber – fiber that is not being used – from the city, Electric Department Superintendent Dick Simon said.
The city will install a 4.3-mile cable from the hydroelectric plant at Sinnissippi Dam to Days Inn Hotel, 2105 First Ave., to I-88, Simon said. After the connection is up and running, various agencies and companies can hook up, Simon said.
The amount iFiber will pay for the lease is undetermined, but “there will be some type of agreement reached,” Simon said. “iFiber hopes so and so do we.”
Former Dixon Engineer Shawn Ortgiesen, who resigned April 16, was trying to get the city hooked up, but Dixon is not currently negotiating with iFiber, Mayor Jim Burke said. The city might connect, depending on the cost and its benefits to the city, he said.
The city has fiber laid for the connection, but does not have service yet, and has no timeline for the connection, City Manager Scott Shumard said.
The city will pay $600 a month for a feed to the Coliseum, where most city offices are. The city also will have feeds to two fire department buildings, the public works building, and the wastewater treatment plant. Each will cost $100 a month.
Sauk Valley Community College
The college is not connected yet, but hopes to know in August when it will be, Academic Vice President Alan Pfeifer said.
The required fiber has been laid, but the needed electronic devices for the hookup are not there yet, he said.
The college, which has bandwidth of 22 MBps, will increase its bandwidth by 20 to 25 percent, Pfeifer said.
The college will pay about $7,000 a year in maintenance fees, Pfeifer said. The college currently leases a Comcast fiber for about $40,000 a year to be connected to Illinois Century Network, so the iFiber agreement will mean a savings of $33,000 a year, most of which the college will use to buy more bandwidth, Pfeifer said.
East Coloma School District
East Coloma School District would like to connect to iFiber, and reached an agreement with the organization in which the school would receive the same level of service as other local entities, Superintendent Kevin Andersen said.
But Andersen said he is not certain the school will be able to hook up as the city of Rock Falls negotiates with the group.
Sterling Public Schools
Sterling Public Schools are hooking up. The fiber has been laid to connect all of the schools, and this week the district will be able to connect to the Internet with the fibers, Director of Technology Jeff Hippen said
The district will pay $300 a month for each building’s maintenance fees, but those payments are going to be 60 to 70 percent covered with a grant from the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, also known as E-rate. The Universal Service Administrative Co. administers E-rate under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission.
The district will probably increase bandwidth from 50 to 100 or 200 MBps, Hippen said.
The connection will allow the district to consolidate its three servers – where information is stored and shared – at Washington, Lincoln and Franklin elementary schools, which will save the district money, he said. The Internet service will be 10 to 15 times faster, which will come in handy when more online student testing comes down the pike, he said.
“It’s very cool,” Hippen said. “It’s like having instant information, files video, right at your fingertips instantly, all the time.”
Dixon Public School District
Dixon Public School District will soon to be connected. All five school buildings have the fiber laid, capable of up to 10 GB, Technology Director Charles Kinsella said. The central office building was not included in the iFiber grant, so the district is using a wireless connection from that building to Reagan Middle School to connect it with the rest of the district.
The cost for connecting the five schools will be $3,000 a month. The district will have bandwidth of 33 MBps. The district currently runs a fiber line to its Internet source at the college, which offers 8 MBps. The additional cost will be $180 a month.