Connect Illinois expanded broadband in rural Metro East; $50M more funding released

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STAUNTON, Ill.- Illinois is releasing $50 million in funding to further expand broadband technology in the state. Gov. J.B. Pritzker was in Staunton to make the announcement about the next round of the Connect Illinois program.

Gov. Pritzker said the second round is the next giant step in closing gaps in education, agriculture, and small businesses.

Gov. Pritzker said, “The lack of fast internet access had unacceptable consequences for too many of our neighborhoods and towns and communities”.

The governor went on to say the pandemic has compounded those disparities. He says the state has seen it first hand when a small business had to close and had no online store or when a student couldn’t log on for school.

He is encouraging internet service providers, municipalities, non-profits, and rural cooperatives to partner with the state and apply for the Connect Illinois program.

There is up to $5 million per project available. This round of the program calls for a nonstate match component from companies that will help accelerate the delivery of broadband investments.

The first round brought millions of dollars of grant money to Madison, Macoupin, Jersey, Calhoun counties plus areas near or in Bethalto, Freeburg, Granite City, Lebanon, North Woodlawn, and O’Fallon.

One of the largest single providers of high-speed broadband is Madison Communications in Staunton.

The CEO of Community Hospital in Staunton says the company helped it bring a fiber-optic connection to the facility in 2007 when it was needed for a new piece of medical equipment. She said the same technology helped during the pandemic so it could help offer virtual visits to patients for the first time.

The funding is part of the Rebuild Illinois capital plan, the first comprehensive program in Illinois in nearly a decade.

The second round of funding comes following the initial round of funding released earlier this year that supported 28 projects and over 26,000 new or enhanced connections to homes, farms and community anchors in the state.

You can learn more about the program of find an application on Connect Illinois’ website.

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