iTV3 laying the groundwork for Internet expansion in central Illinois

EAST PEORIA, IL. — A company that still operates hundreds of video stores across the United States and Canada is also laying fiber optic cable in Peoria.

Glenview-based Highland Ventures runs 775 Family Video stores as well as iTV3, a cable TV system based in East Peoria.

“So far we’ve built up to 2,000 homes in Peoria,” said VP Levi Dinkla, referring to connections to Peoria residential neighborhoods that started this year.

ITV3 has wired 30,000 homes across central Illinois, he said. The company started in Pekin in 2010 before moving through Morton and East Peoria.

“We’ve built a ring of fiber in Peoria, laying 800 miles of fiber across the entire area,” said Dinkla, a 15-year employee with the Family Video company, the past five with iTV3.

“We’re looking to make Peoria a gigabit city. There aren’t 100 cities in the country with that kind of Internet service,” he said. “Fiber optic is not just about speed but volume. It means you can get on the Internet in under five milliseconds,” said Dinkla.

“The river has played a huge role in the development of Peoria,” he said, citing city history and the importance of the Illinois River as a transportation and shipping route.

“Today’s river is the Internet. Fiber optic cable creates technology opportunities that makes for stronger companies. We want to make Peoria a hotbed for technical investment,” said Dinkla, who’s also on the board of Startup Peoria, a group that supports entrepreneurs in the Peoria area.

ITV3 has already wired 10,000 businesses across central Illinois, he said.

As for residential customers, Dinkla suggested those interested in service should go to website for more information.

“Every sign-up is a vote to bring us to your neighborhood,” he said.

Going head-to-head with Comcast, the primary cable TV service in the Peoria area and the nation’s largest cable company, doesn’t intimidate iTV3, said Dinkla.

“The reason we started this company was customer service. We had to be different. People don’t like to be tricked by their provider,” he said.

Having another player in the cable TV field is good for the public, added Dinkla. “With competition comes service that can insure long-term savings for everybody,” he said.

While iTV3 offers up TV packages and bundles that have become the norm for the cable TV scene, the company has a well-defined position, said Dinkla. “We consider ourselves an Internet company, the uncable company. We don’t force people into taking TV. The Internet is the big thing,” he said.

“We’re still interested in TV but every year more young people get their media through the Internet,” said Dinkla.

“We’ve invested a lot of money to run a fiber optic network — not just for business today but in the years ahead,” he said.

With all those Family Video stores — many now sharing space with another of the company’s offshoots, Marco’s Pizza — Highland Ventures covers media, both old and new, said Dinkla.

“The slice of the pie is less than it was years ago, but nobody’s left at the table,” he said, noting that Family Video has survived while national video store firms like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video have slipped from the scene.

Meanwhile, Highland Ventures continues to diversify. Along with sizable holdings of commercial real estate, the company has also started fielding fitness centers and digital device repair shops.

Regardless of the business, the company directive is the same, said Dinkla. “From our employees, you won’t hear, ‘I have to ask my manager,’ The watchword is protect the customer,” he said.

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