Connect Illinois funds help expand rural broadband

In late June, Governor JB Pritzker announced $50 million in Connect Illinois grants to 28 projects across the state. The $50 million in state grants were matched by $65 million in nonstate funding for a total of $115 million to expand broadband access for more than 26,000 homes, businesses, farms and community institutions.

The funds are part of Connect Illinois, the state’s $420 million statewide broadband expansion plan to bring basic access to all communities by 2024.

The first round of $50 million in grants went to 18 internet service providers, rural cooperatives, nonprofits and local governments to invest in growing broadband capacity across Illinois. Round one leverages more than $65 million in nonstate match to support fiber infrastructure investments made over the next 12-18 months.

Recipients of the grants include Jo-Carroll Energy, Galena, and Illinois Electric Cooperative, Winchester.

“Jo-Carroll Energy, through its Sand Prairie business unit, is excited about the opportunity the Connect Illinois Program brings to accelerate fiber buildout throughout two rural areas of our service territory,” says Mike Casper, CEO, Jo-Carroll Energy. “Our buildout will provide fiber to nearly 1,600 rural homes and businesses, including farms. We look forward to the public/private partnership and the expanded benefits in education, telehealth, precision agriculture and economic development that it will bring to our members.”

Illinois Electric Cooperative General Manager Randy Long says the grant will be used to install fiber in the Calhoun County towns of Hardin, Brussels, Winneberg, Batchtown and Kampsville. The installation will provide service to 746 unserved households and 95 unserved businesses with a fiber-to-the premises network providing speeds up to 1 gigabit download/1 gigabit upload.

“Illinois Electric Cooperative is pleased to have received this award through the Connect Illinois Grant Program,” says Long. “The need for high-speed internet access has never been more apparent than it is now. Providing fiber service to the towns in Calhoun County will help stimulate the economy and create new opportunities in education and healthcare, as well as enable telecommuting to jobs in the St. Louis Metro area.”