Brown County School District Awarded Grant for Broadband Development

By Jeremy Coumbes on July 10, 2020 at 9:48am

A West Central Illinois School District is one of the first in the state to receive grant funding from a new program aimed at building broadband capacity in underserved areas.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Office of Broadband announced the first recipients of the Illinois Connected Communities grant program Thursday.

The program directs $150,000 in state-funded small grants which are paired with $150,000 in philanthropic matching funds for community and local government partners in the development of strategic plans for access, adoption, and utilization of high-speed broadband in their communities.

Brown County School District No. 1 has been selected as one of the initial 12 entities to receive a grant of up to $15,000 from the program.

Brown County School District Superintendent Vicki Phillips said in the DCEO announcement today “In light of the recent COVID shut down of schools and many public services that are important to daily life, the fact that quality connectivity is absolutely vital for a community to thrive has become clearly evident” And that “without availability of quality access to the world through broadband, thriving is not possible.”

The Illinois Connected Communities grant program was developed to help underserved communities lay the groundwork to be part of the Connect Illinois high speed internet expansion program announced by Governor J.B. Pritzker in August of last year.

The program aims to bring basic high-speed broadband service to all communities in the state by 2024, at an estimated cost of $420 million.

DCEO officials say local philanthropic contributions raised to date will support more than 50 hours of free expert consultation and best-practice curriculum for each of the twelve Illinois Connected Communities.

Guidance will include assisting communities to define their technology goals; measuring current levels of broadband access, adoption, and use; and seeking technical assistance and other funds to meet community needs.

DCEO officials say a second round of grants is currently being considered for implementation sometime later this year.