Governor J.B. Pritzker was in Staunton today to tout the second round of rural broadband funding for the state. The state is releasing $50 million in this wave as a part of the $420 million Connect Illinois iniative started by the governor’s administration last year. Applications for the funding will remain open until February.
This availability of additional funding builds on the inaugural round of funding released earlier this year, which supported 28 projects collectively slated to support over 26,000 new or enhanced connections serving every corner of the state. Eligible applicants include internet service providers, rural cooperatives, nonprofits and local governments. Up to $5 million per project will be available during the second round, and subsequent rounds will follow over the course of the next several years. The second round of Connect Illinois calls for a non-state match component requiring companies to dedicate funding that will accelerate the delivery of broadband investments.
48th District Democratic Senator Andy Manar said today that it takes communities working together to provide broadband to rural communities: “Connect Illinois requires partnerships at the local level. I can tell you that since the first round [of funding] went out, any number of constituents of mine and even beyond the 48th District reached out to say ‘How can we see this investment in our area, in our neighborhood and our town?’ and I say, ‘The first thing that it takes is a partner.'”
Manar says it will help invest in communities deficient in connectivity, especially since COVID-19 has laid bare the importance of a solid Internet connection: “The next round of funding is seeking to invest in our communities all over again, because without access to high speed Internet, business can’t grow, they can’t thrive, they can’t compete. Covid has exposed so many challenges that we have in the state – so many challenges from the delivery of healthcare to delivery of education services to access to markets for small businesses that they have challenges accessing now. This grant program is leaps ahead of what other states are doing. This is putting us up at the top of the list as a state. It is showing people that we thought about this prior to Covid, and now that we have this in place, we are going to continue to invest despite the challenges that we have, and this is a very, very good thing.”
Manar complimented the Madison Communications project, which was one of the first 18 Connect Illinois grant recipients. The $5.1 million project is connecting high speed Internet to Madison and Macoupin County, and was the largest project in terms of geographical area covered in the first round.
For more information on the Notice of Funding Opportunity and to view the application, please visit the Connect Illinois page through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.