$50M grants kick off Illinois’ largest-ever broadband expansion

$50M grants kick off Illinois’ largest-ever broadband expansion
Governor JB Pritzker announced $50 million in Connect Illinois grants to 28 projects touching every region of the state. (Source: Office of Governor JB Pritzker)

CHICAGO, Ill. (KFVS) - Governor JB Pritzker announced $50 million in Connect Illinois grants to 28 projects touching every region of the state.

The $50 million in state grants will be matched by $65 million in nonstate funding for a total of $115 million, with plans to expand access for more than 26,000 homes, businesses, farms and community institutions across Illinois.

The money is being released as part of the state’s $420 million statewide broadband expansion, Connect Illinois - the governor’s plan to bring basic access to all communities by 2024. The plan aims to improve access through a capital investment and with the nation’s largest grant matching program.

The governor was joined by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and grantee, Geneseo Communications, for an event at Olson Acres Farms in Geneseo to make the announcement.

With the first round of Connect Illinois grants, 18 internet service providers, rural cooperatives, nonprofits and local governments were granted a total of $50 million to invest in growing broadband capacity across the state.

Round one leverages over $65 million in nonstate match for a total of more than $115 million to support fiber infrastructure investments made over the next 12-18 months.

Grants were awarded to recipients representing every region of the state, with projects supporting broadband infrastructure that will serve these areas for decades into the future.

A full list and a map of first round recipients is available on DCEO’s broadband page.

The governor said internet access is essential to community and economic development in the State of Illinois, and his plan responds to the needs of key industries and business sectors that face a lack of access due to a number of factors, including their location. Farm and agriculture is one of those sectors, with an estimated 40 percent of farmers in Illinois underserved or completely unserved by reliable internet access.

Grant applications were reviewed and evaluated on a competitive basis, with proposals evaluated in seven categories: broadband impact; matching funds; community support; project readiness; project sustainability; broadband adoption assistance; and shared use/open access.

Applicants were eligible for up to $5 million per project and they were required to provide a non-state funding match of at least 50 percent, more than doubling the first-round impact of the nation’s largest state broadband matching grant program.

The money will be used for projects that build or increase fiber infrastructure to support broadband access. This in turn will create jobs across the state and offer new economic opportunities for Illinois residents.

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