An Illinois Congressman is hoping to pair up with state lawmakers to continue to work towards connecting Illinois’ on the Internet. 13th District Congressman Rodney Davis says he’s glad that Governor J.B. Pritzker and bi-partisan support has decided to invest in providing connectivity via broadband to all the under-served rural areas of Illinois. “One of the main issues that we tackled during the last farm bill was to increase the amount of funding going out to rural broadband. We’ve got to make sure that we get to that last mile. Just like we electrified rural America and got them phone service, we ought to do the same with broadband. The key is that we have to make sure that companies that take federal dollars to come and provide certain levels of service when it comes to broadband to those most remote, rural areas that we have in America; they’re going to have to live up to the standards that they promised. That’s clearly not what has been happening in the past. That’s one thing that we’ve addressed. I’m certainly glad that Governor Pritzker and both Republicans and Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly have decided to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in broadband expansion. I certainly hope we can work together to make the money at the federal government go further in states like Illinois.”
Davis said that he wants to get out of the way of private companies who are living up to their broadband services. “We’ve got to make sure that companies have the ability to compete in areas like Carrollton and Greenfield, and areas where there are a larger amount of customers. I come from Taylorville. It’s a town of 11,000 people. Because we have a local broadband provider that decided to wrap our community in fiber, we’ve got 1 gigabyte up and 1 gigabyte down broadband speed. In my hometown, we have 3 broadband choices. What we don’t want is the federal government and state government competing against companies that are already making the investment, because those private companies are going to give us the best service and the best speeds. The key is we have to get broadband access into communities where there are customers, and it makes it that much easier and more cost-effective to get that same service back out into the rural, remote areas.”
Davis says the southern and western portions of his district have seen some of the biggest failed promises when it comes to broadband services. “Calhoun County, for example, has had a company that has taken federal dollars to supply broadband service to its customers in Calhoun County but they are not living up to those standards that they promised when it comes to service and speed. That’s the ‘claw back’ provision that I was talking about where we now at the federal level have a chance if companies don’t live up to their end of the bargain and they’ve taken federal dollars to go that last mile, they may have to give that [federal] money back if they don’t provide the service that they promised.”
Davis hopes that the Connect Illinois project and federal money can work together to provide service to as many citizens of Illinois as possible in the near future.