Illinois wins $253.7 million in federal funding to boost internet access in underserved areas

Illinois wins 3.7 million in federal funding to boost internet access in underserved areas

WASHINGTON – The Biden White House, Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth along with Gov. JB Pritzker announced Tuesday that $253.7 million in federal funds will be sent to Illinois to promote broadband infrastructure development where it is lacking throughout the state.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on internet affordability and availability and the need to make it as common as other utilities, such as electricity and water.

During the pandemic, the issue of digital inequalities has become more important in rural Illinois and parts of the Chicago area with a large number of low-income residents, as many of everyday activities are conducted over the Internet,

The $253.7 million in federal money — which is part of the US Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund — will connect 87,613 households and businesses, covering about 25% of areas in Illinois without high-speed Internet access, according to the state.

“You can still run into people who remember their grandfathers and grandmothers telling the story of when electricity came to the American farm, back in the 1930s,” Durbin said.

“And President Franklin Roosevelt realized that without electricity, farmers and rural dwellers had no chance of being part of the 20th century economy. They brought electricity to the farms and in the process created modern farming. Now you see the same young people telling their grandparents’ story.

“They struggle to understand why they don’t have access to the internet. They realize it is important for their education. This is critical to retaining businesses and attracting new ones. This is why the US bailout is a plan for job and business creation and to give children a chance to be competitive in the global economy.

Durbin spoke in a Zoom call with the governor, Duckworth, White House US bailout coordinator Gene Sperling and others.

The money flows directly to the state of Illinois through the Treasury Department, which approved the state’s application for this broadband grant. The department said the Connect Illinois Broadband Grant “will prioritize projects that demonstrate community support, deploy fiber optic infrastructure, provide affordable service.”

Duckworth, a member of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband — which has jurisdiction over Internet-related matters — said on the call, “This funding will help governments with critical capital projects, including reliable affordable broadband infrastructure and other digital connectivity technologies. projects.”

Many low-income households may be eligible for Internet discounts of up to $30 per month. The Biden administration got promises from 20 Internet providers to offer high-speed service for no more than $30 a month. Go to to find out if you’re eligible for this break – and sign up for it if you are

BACKGROUND: The Pritzker administration has been working on broadband equity, access and affordability issues for several years, starting before the pandemic. Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois capital plan included $420 million for broadband infrastructure improvements.

The state, Pritzker said on the call, “has long recognized the need for public sector leadership and broadband expansion, even before the pandemic revealed the true extent and consequences of the digital divide.”

“…Together. federal and state investment will allow us to expand broadband access to every corner of our state,” Pritzker said.

Under the state programs, “tens of thousands” of homes and businesses in the state have already gotten connections, Pritzker said.

Asked how long it would take for the new federal dollars to help Chicago — on top of what the state is already doing — the governor said it could take up to a year “to lay fiber or to get the best and fastest Internet connection to find to reach an area and then to actually put those dollars to work. So I would say it could take a year for the federal dollars that we’re seeing today to actually reach those communities in Chicago, but it’s not for lack of there already being progress at the state level. It’s just that it takes a little time to make these dollars work, and these new dollars are going to be tremendously helpful.”

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