Council approves ITV-3 franchise

PEKIN, IL. -- Residents of East Peoria will soon have a new option when it comes to their cable television, Internet and telephone service.

 The City Council on Tuesday approved on first reading a franchise agreement with ITV-3 Inc., a locally owned, fiber optic cable company that will begin to compete with Comcast customers as early as this summer.

 “Our fiber optic network will make East Peoria a more attractive place to live, work and employ,” Levi Dinkla, vice president of ITV-3, said Tuesday in his pitch to the council and mayor. “What made this area great for industry originally was access to the river and roads to transport goods. While access to those roads and the river is still a huge advantage for this area, having bandwidth is just as vital for the long-term economy of our area.”

 The council approved the agreement 5-0. It then moved on to approve the second cable franchise agreement of the night, also 5-0, with Comcast of Illinois/Indiana/Ohio LLC. Both agreements will receive a second reading and final approval at the council’s next meeting in two weeks.

 With the vote, East Peoria joins Pekin, Morton and Bartonville as the communities where there is competition with Comcast, the country’s largest cable provider, for residential customers. There are about 13,000 customers in those communities. Dinkla said the company has had discussions with the city of Peoria, but there are no current plans to request a franchise agreement any time soon.

 ITV-3 will begin to engineer the new fiber optic grid that will ultimately run past all of the 9,000 residences in East Peoria, giving all residents the ability to tap into the system. Dinkla said the company’s typical service is about $100 a month for Internet, TV and telephone. Dinkla said customers would be treated to hometown customer service. It’s call center is located inside its headquarters at 331 Fulton St. in Peoria.

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 Workers already have put in 2 million feet of fiber optic throughout Peoria, Pekin, Morton, Peoria Heights, West Peoria, Bartonville and Creve Coeur where it is currently available for some businesses.

 The four commissioners and Mayor Dave Mingus enthusiastically welcomed ITV-3 to the city. Some leveled faint criticism at Comcast, specifically its high costs, fluctuating bills and spotty customer service.

 “I believe that competition is a good and healthy thing,” said Commissioner Gary Densberger. “I think this is an excellent development that is better for our citizens and will help Comcast improve its service.”

 Commissioner Chad Joos agreed.

 “I, too, am a fan of competition. It makes all parties involved perform on their ‘A’ game,” he said.

 ITV-3 is owned by the Hoogland family, the owners of Family Video. It branched out into fiber optics in 2009 and has grown rapidly ever since. Dinkla said he was the company’s 14th employee when he came to work in January 2011. There were 30 employees on Jan. 1, 2012, and 60 employees at the start of 2013.