Champaign City Council working to speak with consultant

The Champaign City Council is working to speak with Doug Dawson, an independent consultant for the Big Broadband Project, after the regularly scheduled council meeting Tuesday. After previous delays due to Dawson’s ongoing illness and inclement weather conditions, officials still hope to hear his presentation.

Champaign is one of many communities pursuing the Big Broadband Project, which aims to connect residences to the Internet via fiber-optic cables. Dawson is the president of CCG Consulting, LLC, and his report covers the impact of Big Broadband on the communities that have implemented it.

Fred Halenar, director of the Champaign Information Technologies Department, said the meeting may not pull through because of Dawson’s issues with illness. Halenar added that if Dawson is not able to be there in person, the council will try to hold a conference via telephone.

“Eventually, I do think the council members will meet with him,” Halenar said. “The meeting is planned to cover everything the consultant would have covered had last week’s meeting taken place.”

Michael La Due, deputy mayor and District 2 council member, said Dawson’s visit with the council is regarded as a major step toward considering moving forward with the project if its federal grant is approved. The application is in the process of being rewritten and is due to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by March 15.

“We have so much to ask the consultant, and there is so much he can share with us,” La Due said. “That’s why we deferred this discussion until he was in town. If he doesn’t make it, I don’t know how far or what kind of discussion there can be.”

Halenar said there were three grants proposed in the first application: one for fiber optic infrastructure, one for computer centers and another for small business administration availability. The request for computer centers throughout the community was not granted through the telecommunications administration. The grant for small business administrations is still pending.

“City council is doing diligence to make sure that moving forward with the project makes sense financially,” said Jeff Hamilton, technician at the Champaign Information Technologies Department.