USDA will invest $46.4 million to provide broadband service in six unserved and underserved rural counties in Illinois. The investment is part of $550 million Congress allocated to the second round of the ReConnect Program.

“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children and remote business operations all require access to broadband,” said USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. noted IFB appreciates the much-needed investment in improving broadband service for Illinois farmers and rural communities.

“Broadband service is not a luxury; it is a necessity. The COVID-19 situation has only further highlighted the need for improved connectivity,” said Guebert. “That is why the Illinois Farm Bureau supports improving broadband service in rural areas. Our farmers are demanding faster, more reliable and more affordable broadband connectivity.

“Improved broadband service not only improves the economic well-being of farmers, but it also can help revitalize rural Illinois and boost our economy. Improved broadband is important for rural economic development, rural education, and rural health care,” Guebert added.

Hamilton County Telephone Co-op will use a $20 million ReConnect grant and a $20 million ReConnect loan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 19,749 people, 462 businesses, 347 farms, 16 educational facilities, three post offices and four fire stations to high-speed broadband internet in Saline, Williamson, Franklin and White counties.

Flat Rock Telephone Co-op, Inc. will use a $3.2 million ReConnect grant and a $3.2 million ReConnect loan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 1,460 people, 50 farms, 13 businesses and a fire station to high-speed broadband internet in Crawford and Lawrence counties.