City Council meeting includes Mediacom fiber proposal, vote on police range

By Gary Scott on August 25, 2015 at 8:46am

A map showing the area that could be covered in Jacksonville with fiber service. The red lines are fiber pipes.

Mediacom is looking to sign the City of Jacksonville on to a national fiber project.

Officials from the communications company made a pitch Monday night to City Council for its “Building a Fiber City” plan being offered to selective cities to raise their Internet speeds to that of major metropolitan areas.

It’s been over a year since it was announced that a $100-million high-speed fiber-optic broadband Internet line, the Illinois Century Network, was completed.

The network, which took four years to finish and was funded with federal, state and private money, includes Morgan, Scott, Cass and Sangamon Counties in a 55-county area.

Mediacom officials explained that as a result, there are 28 miles of fiber in the Jacksonville area.

Fiber service would offer gigabit-per-second download speeds, as opposed to the megabit-per-speed service people currently can receive through various service providers.

Todd Curtis was one of several Mediacom representatives who spoke.

“So, out of all the communities we’re visiting with- and there aren’t very many- we’re going to choose six that have the greatest potential, greatest willing to partner, and it doesn’t have to be the largest city. We thought of Jacksonville because of our relationship and the fact that you’re a growing community, and with great potential, and I think it would be a great partnership,” Curtis told aldermen.

District 117 schools are already taking advantage of the fiber service. Initially, it was only South Elementary, but Cory Larsen with Mediacom explains the district now has the service in all schools.

“You get federal funds based on your free and reduced-lunch program. It gives the school a nice big chunk of money to go out and buy a nice state-of-the-art system, which is what they’ve done this year. So, as of July, they now have fiber at all of the schools. They did have fiber at two of them for probably about five years, but we’ve kind of filled in all of the gaps now, so they have fiber at all of the schools,” Larsen explained.

“And they have one larger internet pipe at the high school that they can control and they parcel it out to the schools as they see fit. There’s so much room for growth there over the next few years; they’ll be able to up all the bandwidth between schools as they see fit.”

Curtis added this wouldn’t cost the city.

“We’re not looking to do anything that’s on your dime; it’s all on our dime. We do look for just the partnership which would allow us to ease the transition. If there’s an obstacle, if there’s a barrier to an extension, do you have facilities in place that might allow us easier access? We could work out a trade agreement… nothing is free, so it would be a partnership,” he says.

Another Illinois city under consideration is Effingham.

Aldermen would need to express official interest in being a part of the Mediacom project by September 1st. Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard says regardless of the decision made in the next week, the city’s “fiber team”, assembled in January, is moving forward on exploring options for door-to-door fiber service.

“We hope eventually that Mediacom will be a player if we decide to go down that route. I like what I heard today from Mediacom, however, there will be questions I know that my IT guy would have, and some members of the community that would reach out to maybe do some follow-up with Mediacom on specifics,” Ezard says.

Last November, officials from Illinois Rural Electric Co-op asked aldermen to consider a similar fiber project that City Council ultimately never took up.

Aldermen approved a services agreement last night with Hutchison Engineering to find contractors to complete work on the Jacksonville Police Department shooting range and training complex. The vote was 7-1, with two aldermen absent.

Steve Warmowski, the lone “no” vote, insisted he’s not against having the training range.

“I would expect the police administration to have an operational plan on file. Right now, there’s just some vague promises that the state police are going to pay for something, other regional departments are going to pay for some things, and it’s going to be self-sustaining with revenue that comes in through training or through firearm training for public citizens,” he says.

“We just need a plan that’s viable so we can hold the police administration accountable long-term for what actually happens.”

Warmowski adds the current police administration has placed a big emphasis on drug enforcement.

“And I think a lot of the community policing that the previous administration was focused on, we don’t have the same community policing profile for the city. We have a police officer who is assigned full-duty to drug enforcement outside of the area, and so I just question that for a small town, why are we doing that?” questions Warmowski.

“I think part of the reason is so we can get the drug seizure money back into the community so we can do projects like this. I think the main priority for the community should be community policing. It shouldn’t be a wider drug war.”

You can hear more of Warmowski’s comments here:

In other meeting action, a ground lease for the Jacksonville Center for the Arts at 305 North Main was approved. Executive Director Susan Weller told aldermen an official lease-signing celebration will take place next Thursday.

Aldermen approved an adjustment to the agreement with Northwater Consulting for the Lake Mauvisterre Watershed Project that will see the city’s contribution to the project increase by $3,000.

Alderwoman Lori Large-Oldenettel announced the next Town Brook cleanup date will be October 24th from 9 to 11 a.m.