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Illinois Plants 'Johnny Appleseed' Projects Promoting Broadband in State

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Broadband Census Illinois

This is the eleventh of a series of articles surveying the state of broadband, and broadband data, within each of the United States. Among the next profiles: Nevada, Missouri and Utah.

September 3 - In describing efforts to improve broadband in Illinois, Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn uses this analogy: “We have to be the modern-day, 21st century Johnny Appleseeds, planting good technology projects all over the state.”

Quinn already has a team full of “Johnny Appleseeds” working across Illinois as a part of his and Governor Rod Blagojevich’s Broadband Deployment Council. Under the 2007 Illinois High Speed Internet Services and Information Technology Act, SB0766 -- which established the council -- these seeds will ensure “that all state residents and business will have access to affordable and reliable high speed Internet services.”

Broadband investment and policy engagement have been hallmarks of the Blagojevich administration since it first established its “Eliminate the Digital Divide” initiative. It used funds received as part of the state’s settlement of the SBC/Ameritech merger. Their goal has been to expand internet connectivity in the most underserved parts of the state.

Efforts like this have been expanded and supplemented by investments in telecommunications infrastructure by municipal governments, public private partners, and universities. Today, the primary goal of Quinn’s Broadband Deployment Council is to coordinate and support the seemingly endless efforts by various stakeholders in Illinois.

Council participant Alan Kraus, executive director of the Broadband Development Group of the Regional Development Institute at Northern Illinois University, remarked that “the Broadband Deployment Council has been a tremendous asset in bringing everyone together. In Illinois, there’s both a top-down effort to improve broadband led by the council and a bottom-up, grass roots effort lead by municipalities, public private partnerships and organizations like the universities.”

Those efforts include a recent success for the Illinois Rural Health Net (IRHN) initiative, a plan to build high-speed fiber internet infrastructure designed to serve rural hospitals and support telemedicine “visits” with experts and specialists in other parts of the state. It was recently awarded a $21 million grant from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Health Care Pilot Program.

Meanwhile, the Broadband Deployment Council itself is working to creating a non-profit entity to utilize at least $4 million in funding currently available for state investments in digital infrastructure.

Another item on Illinois’ broadband agenda is the need to “assess and catalog the telecom infrastructure of the state,” as dictated by SB0766. Groups like Connect Southern Illinois, the Illinois Century Network, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity are working to collect data on broadband infrastructure in the state. Still, Illinois still lacks a comprehensive broadband map that reflects connectivity and costs on the household level.

While efforts to map current broadband infrastructure continue in Illinois, Alan Kraus is confident that the state has already achieved much through its broadband initiatives.

“Both Governor Blagojevich and Lt. Gov. Quinn are committed to ensuring that broadband technology is deployed within the state and Illinois could be a model for the country in terms of how you want to move things in terms of broadband at the state level,” said Kraus.

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1 Comment

  1. […] to assuming the governorship, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn had assumed the cause of broadband, saying that “We have to be the modern-day, 21st century Johnny Appleseeds, planting good […]

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