Governor Pritzker announces Illinois initiative to help communities prepare to invest in broadband infrastructure – The Southland Journal

Governor Pritzker announces Illinois initiative to help communities prepare to invest in broadband infrastructure (Springfield, IL) – Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Trade and Economic Opportunities (DCEO) Broadband office today announced a new planning and capacity building program to help Illinois communities leverage historic broadband infrastructure funding for community broadband expansion. The Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Planning Program – a collaborative effort of the Illinois Office of Broadband, the Illinois-based Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, and the University of Illinois Extension – will help local governments across the country. ‘Illinois to receive expert support as they prepare to take advantage of new dollars that will be made available by the state as well as through the historic passage of the federal infrastructure program. The collaborative opportunity is made possible through financial support from Heartland Forward and its Connecting the Heartland initiative.

The Illinois Office of Broadband is calling on local government units – especially cities, counties, and multi-county areas – to apply to receive expert support offered as part of an intensive engagement program 14-week community program designed to transform public funding available from broadband into sustainable broadband access.

“Access to reliable high-speed internet is not a luxury – it is a necessity for healthcare, academic success and competitiveness in a 21st century economy,” Governor Pritzker said. “Keeping our communities connected has never been more important than it is today and this pilot project will help communities play a direct role in improving broadband infrastructure to fill service gaps. With a historic amount of funding available through our own Connect Illinois initiative and with new federal infrastructure dollars from Washington, we are committed to achieving our goal of providing universal broadband access in our state. “

“Access to reliable high-speed internet is now one of the main pillars of fairness in this country,” said Lieutenant Governor Stratton. “We must end these disparities and increase quality broadband for households and businesses in our state to ensure that every resident can tap into more resources for education, employment, health care and Moreover.”

Illinois communities are expected to receive significant funding for improved broadband infrastructure, with the recent passage of the $ 1,000 billion federal infrastructure plan. In addition, the state of Illinois has its own $ 420 million investment plan, currently underway, and funds available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which will soon be made available to communities to apply. The community planning support offered through initiatives like Accelerate Illinois will help level the playing field so that more cities and counties – regardless of size or staff – can prepare to submit capital to help. to transform broadband in their communities.

“Under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, we are committed to bridging the digital divide in Illinois,” said Sylvia I. Garcia, Acting Director of DCEO. “To achieve this goal, the state not only mobilizes capital investments to improve broadband access, but also builds the capacity of communities by providing resources to develop and implement plans that will help guide improvements. local broadband for years to come. ”

The Accelerate Illinois program aims to prepare communities to establish and implement a vision for broadband connectivity at scale. With over 30 hours of free expert advice provided by the Benton Institute, the program provides structured engagement to communities to identify broadband goals, understand available funding options, and target capital investments to support the uptake. implemented.

The Accelerate Illinois program builds on efforts we launched earlier this year in conjunction with the state’s Office of Broadband and other stakeholders, including a public awareness campaign for the Emergency program. Broadband Benefit the FCC by providing affordable Internet access to those in need and by placing four American Connection Corps members in communities across Illinois to help advance access, adoption and l high-speed internet use. While the historic influx of federal funding for high-speed internet is good news in the fight to close the digital divide in Illinois and across the nation’s heartland, we heard say that many communities – especially smaller ones – are not ready to take this opportunity. to bring connectivity to their communities. Support local planning and capacity building cities is critical to ensuring that infrastructure dollars are spent efficiently and in the best interests of the communities they are meant to help, and Heartland Forward is proud to play a role in this work, ”said Angie Cooper, Chief Program Officer for Heartland Forward.

“One-time-in-a-lifetime funding of broadband infrastructure by state and federal government offers our communities an unprecedented opportunity to bridge the digital divide through community-driven broadband expansion and partnership.” said Matt Schmit, director of the Illinois Office of Broadband and chairman of the Illinois Broadband Advisory Council. “With our program collaborators, the Illinois Office of Broadband is committed to helping communities seize this opportunity. “

The Accelerate Illinois “Collaboration Opportunity Notice” is open now and is accepting applications until December 30, 2021. The state plans to serve up to 12 communities as part of this initial pilot initiative.

“We are honored to work with the Illinois Office of Broadband and Heartland Forward to engage unserved and underserved communities in a planning and engagement process inspired by a successful program implemented by the Blandin Foundation,” said said Adrianne B. Furniss, executive director of the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society.

“Expanding high-speed connectivity to every corner of Illinois is like building a highway to integrate our state’s communities and residents into a changing global economy and vibrant center of learning,” Joe said. McCoy, executive director of the Illinois State Association of Counties. “The expansion of broadband will break down existing barriers and help create opportunities for everyone. The Accelerate Illinois program will provide a roadmap to help counties and other communities use state and federal dollars to invest in digital equity. ISAC looks forward to working with the Pritzker administration to achieve this goal.

The focus on planning and implementing local broadband has been a hallmark of Governor Pritzker’s efforts to increase 21st century broadband and to help bridge the digital divide that was further exacerbated during the pandemic of COVID-19. Immediately after taking office, Governor Pritzker launched Connect Illinois, a landmark $ 420 million investment in broadband infrastructure designed to provide universal access to communities in Illinois. Since then, the Pritzker administration has invested around $ 1 million in community planning and capacity building, through programs such as Illinois Connected Communities and Broadband READY: Regional Engagement for Adoption and Digital Equity.

Governor Pritzker announces Illinois initiative to help communities prepare to invest in broadband infrastructure

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