Illinois Credits Success of State Broadband Maps to Ground-Up Approach

State officials discussed working with academic, community and industry partners to craft its broadband maps.

Illinois Credits Success of State Broadband Maps to Ground-Up Approach
Updated CAF map from USAC

WASHINGTON, August 25, 2022 – Collaboration with federal, academic, community, and industry partners is vital to the accuracy of Illinois’s broadband mapping initiative, according to state officials.

At a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event Wednesday, a panel from the Illinois Broadband Lab explained that its work is inextricably linked to the efforts of institutions and individuals that provide crucial data, funding, and feedback.

Robbie McBeath, program and communications coordinator for the IBL and outreach manager at the broadband policy house Benton Institute, stated that the theme of the discussion was “…the success of Illinois’s comprehensive, collaborative approach.”

Participants at the event pressed the importance of community feedback and engagement, saying the specialized knowledge of local leaders is crucial to correcting inevitable oversights and errors in the mapping process. Officials also credited academic partners – such as the University of Illinois and the Purdue Center for Regional Development – and industry partners that provide data and analysis.

Broadband mapping is “essential” to identifying and aiding underserved and unserved areas and communities, said Shubhika Agarwal, the IBL’s broadband mapping and data coordinator. Agarwal said Illinois partners with Connected Nation to generate maps, after which the state solicits public feedback.

Benton discussed the Accelerate Illinois initiative, a 14-week “training camp” at which experts “…take [county-level leaders] from a ‘broadband 101’ through doing things like data mapping and surveys.”

Matt Schmit, director of Illinois Office of Broadband, said his team encourages local experimentation and innovation in the broadband space and tries to facilitate such efforts whenever possible.

In 2019, Illinois launched Connect Illinois, a $420-million broadband infrastructure initiative, and officials said the state is also taking advantage of the federal Capital Projects Fund and the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act.

“I can’t stress enough that it’s that combination of state initiative and initial investment…plus the federal investment that’s going to help us meet our goals. So, that magnitude of funding is absolutely essential in this environment,” Schmit said.

In order to receive IIJA funds, Schmit said, states are required to extend coverage to all underserved households. Since the passage of the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technology Availability Act in 2020, the Federal Communications Commission has launched its own mapping initiative – expected by this fall – on which IIJA funds are dependent.

Nonetheless, the panel emphasized the importance of its own work – which it said is more localized and more accurate – in collecting the necessary data that is needed to submit for federal funds.

Other states taking own initiative on mapping

Illinois isn’t the only state working on mapping initiative. The Washington State Broadband Office has its own maps, which it said were created using a “community-up-discussion” approach. Indiana and Colorado also employ community-feedback approaches to mapping.

Meanwhile, Utah officials have said its own maps are ready for federal funding, while Texas has recently signed an agreement with data company LightBox – a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast – to help build its maps.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022, 12 Noon ET – Summer of Broadband: Illinois

State broadband offices will play a critical role in the rollout of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program. In the months of July and August, Broadband Breakfast will take the pulse of broadband efforts at the state level in visits to about half-dozen states across the country. On August 24, Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark will return to the Land of Lincoln to talk with those now responsible for running the Illinois Office of Broadband in preparation for IIJA’s BEAD program.


  • Matt Schmit, Director, Illinois Office of Broadband
  • Shubhika Agarwal, Broadband Mapping and Data Coordinator, Illinois Broadband Lab
  • Adrienne Pickett, Curriculum Coordinator for Digital Equity & Inclusion, Illinois Broadband Lab
  • Robbie McBeath, Program and Communications Coordinator for the Illinois Broadband Lab & Outreach Manager with the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Matt Schmit currently serves as Director of the Illinois Office of Broadband, where integration of 21st century infrastructure and service delivery is a primary focus of his work and research. He previously held office as a senator in his home state of Minnesota, and has served on many legislative boards on broadband deployment, transportation policy & investment, and community & economic development. In addition, Mr. Schmit has served on the Cook County Council on Digital Equity (CODE), the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) board, the Blandin Broadband Strategies board, the St John’s University Board of Regents, and the Legislative Water Commission; represented Minnesota on the National Conference of State Legislators Nuclear Energy Work Group and Commerce Committee; and was an active member of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators and State Ag and Rural Leaders.

Shubhika Agarwal has a background in Urban Planning and assists in Illinois’ Digital Equity Grant Programs—Illinois Connected Communities and the Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Planning Program. She helps build capacity around broadband planning by sharing state and federal broadband access and adoption mapping and data resources; and supports broadband planning efforts by analyzing actual broadband speeds, usage, and satisfaction levels through broadband surveys. She is also working with the state’s mapping partners to create more accurate broadband maps and data layers to position Illinois to utilize federal funding most effectively for broadband deployment in unserved and underserved locations across the state.

Adrienne Pickett, Ph.D. (she/her) joined the Illinois Broadband Lab in June 2022 as a coordinator of programming and curriculum. She serves as the program manager of the Illinois Broadband Regional Engagement for Adoption & Digital Equity (READY) program and has developed curricular materials on digital equity and community engagement planning. In this role, she works closely with state digital equity grant recipients to analyze demographic data, identify community assets, connect with community anchor institutions, and promote broadband adoption. In addition, she conducts the onboarding of new Illinois Extension and American Connection Corps broadband fellows. She was awarded a Ph.D. in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In addition to her broadband equity work, she serves as an online lecturer in Education Leadership for educators working full-time.

Robbie McBeath recently joined the Illinois Broadband Lab where he will be leading the Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Planning Program and continuing to publish the Illinois Broadband Connections bi-weekly newsletter. He also currently serves as Outreach Manager for the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, overseeing the marketing and outreach for Benton’s publications and managing the organization’s social media presence. Before joining the Benton Institue in 2014, he interned at the FCC and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Open Media Foundation in Denver, CO. He graduated in 2013 from the University of Illinois with a degree in Media Studies.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

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