McHenry Consortium partners with small ISPs to provide service to large and medium-sized businesses in Woodstock, IL

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Back in 2013, five government agencies, including City of Woodstock, Woodstock Community Unit School District #200, McHenry County, and McHenry County College, agreed to work together to form the McHenry County Broadband Fiber Network Consortium, which took on a $2.1 million project to build 15 miles of high-speed fiber-optic communication network mostly in Woodstock to 21 sites (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Map of the current network

On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, the Consortium held a Launch Party with the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Industry, NIU/iFiber, and Stratus Networks to share the great news with businesses that they can now be hooked into to the Consortium’s network.

The idea is that any large or medium-sized businesses could call up one of the partnered Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to obtain enterprise level fiber-optic services. These services would include constructing a fiber-optic line, which the ISP would own, to that said business and offer various levels of enterprise services like Dedicated Internet Service, VoIP/SIP Trunking, collocation services, and more. It’s an real alternative to AT&T’s or Comcast’s enterprise-level offerings.

The Consortium and one of the four of the partnered ISPs, Stratus Networks, said that this is not for residential, and therefore will not be available to them. When IFMC’s David Gutowsky, spoke to iFiber or Stratus Networks about the details, David was given ballpark numbers for services starting at $750 a month for 100 Mbps symmetrical speeds and 1000 Mbps or 1 Gbps symmetrical speeds was $1200 a month. David said “This is a decent deal for larger businesses in Woodstock that are looking for reliable enterprise services, but it seems unlikely this is a solution is something that our small businesses can afford. ” Roscoe Stelford, City Manager of Woodstock, said “…other service providers maybe be less expensive, so check with the other partners.” Businesses interested in the service should contact the Consortium’s partner, iFiber, to talk one of the various providers to obtain service and start the discussion.

We are excited to share this news, because it is real measurable progress in our county towards offering everyone service. This new offering gives the Consortium an ability to recuperate some of the expenses from running the network, and the capital costs that were endured during construction. When David Gutowsky spoke with iFiber, David was told that cost for 100 Mbps symmetrical fiber-optic service is cheaper than what AT&T and Comcast are offering with their fiber-optic networks; but far as we know, this new offering from the consortium is the first time fiber-optic internet service has been available in Woodstock. This seems to be a real win for businesses in our community.

If no other progress is made in broadband development, this is a positive win for our large and medium-sized businesses to get enterprise level of connectivity.

We think this is a real measurable progress in the right direction, but this solution falls short as a means to ensure cheaper, faster Internet for all. Any progress made is something for us to be proud of, but this solution that has been put together by the Consortium does not help small businesses nor the residents of Woodstock. We suspect there are not many businesses within Woodstock that cannot afford the high construction costs and/or the $750 monthly costs that such a service requires. For entities a half mile or more away from the fiber-optic lines, there are additional cost prohibitive factors to businesses. As we said, this is real progress, but in our opinion, this offering leaves much room for improvement to provide high quality, reliable, cost-effective broadband for everyone in the county.

If Rock Falls, Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, or the 100 other cities, including #1 rated City of Longmont, CO, can offer 1 Gigabit speeds at $70.00 a month for residents, and offer 1 Gigabit speeds at $375 for businesses, Woodstock, Harvard, Crystal Lake, and/or others in McHenry County can offer the same.

Let’s get together and let’s discuss how we can make this idea of cheaper, faster Internet for all, a reality by discussing the creation and expansion of a community-fiber network.

Please sign up for our newsletter or join us at one of our events. We look forward to having you join us in the discussion.