Illinois Program Establishes County Broadband Plans

The program helps rural communities develop a broadband plan for universal coverage.

Illinois Program Establishes County Broadband Plans
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July 2, 2024 – Through the Broadband Breakthrough program, six participating counties in Illinois have improved their broadband plans and established critical tools for implementation, as highlighted in an online event on June 20.  

The program brought together resources and expertise from several partners, including the University of Illinois Extension and the Illinois Broadband Lab, to prepare communities for the upcoming Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program funding. 

The Broadband Breakthrough project was launched in January 2023 and aims to support rural communities that are advocating for expanded broadband. Program leaders in participating counties educate community team members on how to develop a broadband plan to get every resident reliable and affordable high-speed internet.

Boone County developed a broadband plan emphasizing community priorities for fast, reliable, and affordable internet. It put together a team of representatives from regional, county and city organizations to create criteria for ISPs to meet in BEAD applications.

In a similar way, Johnson, Massac, Vermillion and Lee Counties formed teams of up to 18 community leaders to support BEAD applications in the county and have strategies to partner with the best ISPs that submit applications. The team formed clear visions for broadband accessibility and evaluated potential partners.

Massac County’s outreach campaign received 715 survey responses that highlighted various complaints about internet connection in the state. The campaign found that 71 percent of the respondents believed themselves to be unserved or underserved and 41 percent of the farms reported no internet at all.

Vermilion County’s outreach survey found that the best path forward is to fund a feasibility study for the county. Its team is looking to explore other strategies like digital equity grants and building a middle-mile fiber ring to improve last-mile access.

The Broadband Breakthrough program’s key partners, the University of Illinois Extension, the Illinois Broadband Lab, Illinois State University, and the Illinois Office of Broadband, provided essential tools such as mapping and surveys. 

In June, the NTIA approved Illinois' BEAD initial proposal volume two, which details how the state will administer its allocation from the program. With the approval of the initial proposal, Illinois may now request access to the $1 billion awarded to it through the BEAD program.

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