On the 29th of May, a Thursday, UC2B unveiled its long awaited decision to partner with a private-sector company. The closed-door negotiations process left many guessing at what organization would be chosen as a partner for UC2B and the answer — iTV-3 — seemed to raise more questions than answers.
So who is iTV-3 and why did they, of all the private sector companies, separate themselves from the pack to become the partner for UC2B? Here are eight questions with Vice President of iTV-3 Levi Dinkla to answer the mysteries of who iTV-3 is, where the organization got there start, and what they plan to do with this network that could separate Champaign-Urbana from hosts of other cities in the country.
Smile Politely: When was iTV-3 founded?
Levi Dinkla: In 2009, we purchased an existing telephone company. We had the vision of bringing fiber optic to the home to the communities in the local Peoria area and spreading through Illinois.
SP: How did you get your start? What market? What services? Etcetera.
Dinkla: [We got our start] when we first acquired telephone company, primarily DSL – hooking up DSL lines for customers. We did have a little fiber optics in the ground and that’s why we purchased this telephone company as they were providing internet and telephone over fiber in Pekin.
Later on, TV would be a part of that. Throughout 2009 through 2010 we tested television testing service, which we rolled out in 2010.
SP: What attracted you to the possibility of working with UC2B?
Dinkla: We met through a mutual business relationship and when we first talked to UC2B it was apparent they were very passionate they were very excited to bringing Fiber Optics to the Champaign-Urbana community. It was palpable and the level of interest in getting this next generation of technology [suggested] that it would a very good fit. The availability of the fiber rings already constructed would give us the ability to quickly service areas of the community where that passion converted to actual customers.
Doing business in Champaign-Urbana for 15-20 years through video stores, we were familiar with the community. Having the University there was very attractive as well.
SP: What responsibilities will iTV-3 take over from UC2B? For instance, building of the network, maintenance, etc.
Dinkla: We are taking over the day-to-day operations of current network — all responsibilities operating and maintaining the current network, and then growing that network throughout the community.
UC2B will be more about breaking the digital divide.
SP: Two-part question: What are your short-term and long-term goals for the network in Champaign-Urbana?
Dinkla: Short term is to have a successful integration of the system into our system and to migrate and integrate this network seamlessly and put us in position for us to start growing. We also need people to sign-up for the service in the next 120 days in order to determine where we will construct first.
[Long term is to be a] great member of the business community and to hook up every single home in the community.
SP: How did you decide on the pricing model for C-U?
Dinkla: We’ve been operating a network in the Peoria and have experience with engineering, design, construction, installation… it’s a capital intensive business. Our pricing is based off of pricing to what it’s going to cost to construct the network, what we believe to be the eventual take rate to meet the requirements to make a sustainable business
We feel really good about the price points that we have, getting a sub $80 price point for Gigabit service is key.
We’ve had excitement and contacts from businesses as well as residences… it’s a very smart community. People and businesses understand what it means if we can get fiber to every home in the community.
SP: The pricing model seems higher than the original UC2B price. Is there a reason for this?
Dinkla: A couple of factors there — number one is subsidized pricing … we’re not subsidized at all. We’re not charging an installation fee. That’s usually $300-$400 and we’re covering that. One thing we couldn’t do was that price point because we’re not subsidized. Also, the expansion of this network is focused primarily on getting Gigabit speed available to everyone. The initial UC2B mission was to get affordable broadband to select areas least likely to have access. Our packages give everyone in the community access to speeds not available to all but a handful of other communities across the United States.
SP: Anything else you’d like to add for interview?
Dinkla: We need people to sign up at www.theperfectupgrade.com. We’re going to be hiring local people there. It’s an important project for Champaign, Urbana, and the University, a major step and the communities and the number one thing is we need people to support this initiative.
We will treat you right.