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Connect Illinois: State kicks off broadband expansion project

Connect Illinois map web

GENESEO (WSIL) -- Calling it the state's "largest-ever broadband expansion initiative," Governor JB Pritzker has announced $50 million in Connect Illinois grants.

The first round of grants will go to 28 projects across the state as part of a plan to bring internet access to all Illinois communities by 2024.

The $50 million in state grants will be matched by $65 million in nonstate funding for a total of $115 million.

“Connect Illinois is about the right of all our communities to access health care, education, and economic opportunity – because in the 21st century, all those rights are tied to digital connectivity,” said Gov. Pritzker. “The unacceptable consequences of disparities in broadband access were clear before the COVID-19 pandemic – and over the last few months, we’ve seen firsthand what it means when a small business that had to close its doors has no online shop, what it means when an elderly couple has no safe way to get medical advice at a distance, what it means when a child has no ability to access homework assignments online. This work has never been more urgent – the disadvantages that persist when our communities are left out of opportunity demand ambitious efforts to bring them to a close.”

“Reliable and affordable broadband service is a necessity for the success of agriculture and the quality of farm family life,” said Richard Guebert, Jr., President of the Illinois Farm Bureau. “The recent COVID-19 situation has further highlighted the importance of broadband connectivity. Improving broadband service will help revitalize rural Illinois and boost our economy. The Illinois Farm Bureau appreciates the State of Illinois providing grants for broadband service in areas where it is most needed.”

A full list and map of first-round grant recipients is available on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's (DCEO) broadband page.

DCEO expects to issue another round of Connect Illinois grants later this year.

Below are the projects in southern Illinois receiving grants:

  • Shawnee LEC 1 – $2,264,157 grant
  • Location: Johnson County

Shawnee will partner with the State of Illinois on its Buncombe/Vienna Fiber Project to build a 1 gigabit capable network to provide last mile fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) services to the southern Illinois communities of Goreville, Elvira, Vienna, and Cache Townships in Johnson County. The funded service area includes the communities of Vienna, West Vienna, Buncombe, and Wartrace in southern Illinois. Shawnee will build to a future-proof fiber-to-the-premise network capable of 1 Gigabit synchronous transmission speed designed to serve approximately 557 unserved households, 111 unserved businesses, 230 underserved households and 54 underserved businesses in Johnson County. This future-proof fiber network design supports higher transmission speeds as broadband technologies advance, ensuring the communities in the project area have ample broadband access for years to come.

  • Shawnee LEC 2 – $3,525,068 grant
  • Location: Williamson and Johnson Counties

Shawnee will partner with the State of Illinois on its Goreville/Lake of Egypt Fiber Project to build a 1 gigabit capable network to provide last mile fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) services to the southern Illinois communities of Goreville, Tunnel Hill, and Southern Townships in Williamson and Johnson Counties. The funded service area includes the communities of Goreville, Eagle Point Bay, and Pulleys Mill located in southern Illinois. Shawnee will build to a future-proof fiber-to-thepremise network capable of 1 Gigabit synchronous transmission speed designed to serve approximately 881 unserved households, 104 unserved businesses, 642 underserved households and 8 underserved businesses in Williamson and Johnson Counties. This future-proof fiber network design supports higher transmission speeds as broadband technologies advance, ensuring the communities in the project area have ample broadband access for years to come.

  • Shawnee LEC 3 – $1,183,982 grant
  • Location: Saline County

Shawnee will partner with the State of Illinois on its Mitchellsville / Rudement Fiber Project to build a 1 gigabit capable network to provide last mile fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) services to the southern Illinois communities of Mitchellsville and Rudement in Saline County. Shawnee will build to a futureproof fiber-to-the-premise network capable of 1 Gigabit synchronous transmission speed designed to serve approximately 253 unserved households, 63 unserved businesses, 74 underserved households and 5 underserved businesses in Saline County. This future-proof fiber network design supports higher transmission speeds as broadband technologies advance, ensuring the communities in the project area have ample broadband access for years to come.

  • Wabash Telephone – $1,591,098 grant
  • Location: Clay County

As a Broadband Access project, this middle mile and last mile deployment will serve 659 unserved households, businesses, farms, and community anchor institutions in parts of Clay County with 24 miles of fiber cable. In a funding partnership with the State of Illinois, the Wabash Telephone will improve unserved areas to 1 Gigabits per second download and 1 Gigabits per second upload. Building a fiber-to-the-premises network that provides advanced, high-speed broadband services to households, businesses and farms in the grant area improves access to critical school e-learning applications while also providing residents the opportunity to work from home. The broadband network will improve access to rural health care resources and will stimulate a more robust local area economy.

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