Wave of state-funded projects connect rural areas to broadband

Gov. J.B. Pritzker Wednesday announced the Connect Illinois initiative on Olson Acres Farm in Henry County. (Photo: Governor's Facebook page)

Thousands of farms, homes, businesses and community institutions across Illinois will gain broadband access in the first state broadband projects announced by Gov. J.B. Pritzker Wednesday on Olson Acres Farm in Henry County.

“When we’re done ... everyone everywhere will have access to high-speed internet,” the governor said of his four-year, $400 million Connect Illinois initiative.

The first $50 million projects spread through many rural areas, bringing middle- and last-mile build out and providing access to 26,000 entities that lack broadband access.

“The question of online access is the question of what kind of online opportunity do you have at your fingertips?” the governor said.

With spools of fiber optic cable behind him, Pritzker noted Olson Acres Farm would be among the first to get a new fiber connection from a $5 million grant to Geneseo Communications Inc. that plans to break ground later this summer.

Farmers and the state’s agriculture industry depend upon access to affordable broadband service, said Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. The state estimates 40% of Illinois farmers are either underserved or lack reliable internet access.

“The recent COVID-19 situation has further highlighted the importance of broadband connectivity,” Guebert said. “Improving broadband service will help revitalize rural Illinois and boost our economy. The Illinois Farm Bureau appreciates the state of Illinois providing grants for broadband service in areas where it is most needed.”

The governor noted the $50 million in state grants will leverage another $65 in nonstate funds contributed by 18 partners. For example, Geneseo Communications will contribute $8.4 million for the project to serve about 3,770 farms, businesses, homes and institutions in Henry and Rock Island counties.

Pritzker admitted his plans are ambitious “to deliver near ubiquitous broadband access to nearly every community and to do it in four years.

“Illinois has big challenges and we have to think big to overcome those challenges,” the governor continued. “I’m not willing to accept that only Chicago can have high speed internet ... Our whole state must prosper.”

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity anticipates issuing another round of Connect Illinois grants later this year.


PROJECT LIST: The first round of projects announced by Pritzker Wednesday include:    

Wave of state-funded projects connect rural areas to broadband
  • Adams Telsystems Inc., $4.954 million, Adams and Brown counties for fiber to the premises (FTTP) build-out to about 1,106 homes, businesses, farms and institutions in rural areas east of Quincy.
  • Allpoint NetworX, $2.679 million, Bond and Madison counties, for middle- and last-mile deployment to serve 926 homes, businesses, farms and institutions.
  • Cambridge Telecom Inc., $817,053, Henry County, for fiber to the home (FTTH) project to about 172 businesses, farms and homes in Henry and Rock Island counties.
  • Century Enterprises Inc., $3.123 million, Fulton, Peoria and Knox counties for FTTP build-out in those counties.
  • Comcast 2, $595,301 grant, Sterling in Whiteside County, for last-mile deployment to provide access to 179 unserved homes.
  • Comcast 3, $595,301, Vermilion County, for last-mile deployment to provide access to 270 unserved homes.
  • Cook County, $1.876 million, Cook County Southland for a middle-mile project to expand existing fiber footprint throughout the Chicago Southland area.
  • Diverse Communications, $426,000, Alpha and Lynn Center, for last-mile build-out to serve about 81 businesses, farms, homes and institutions.
  • Geneseo Communications, $5 million, Henry and Rock counties, for last-mile project to serve about 3,776 businesses, farms, homes and institutions.
  • Grafton Technologies Inc., $1.483 million, Jersey County, for middle- and last-mile deployment to provide access to 584 unserved homes, businesses, farms and institutions.
  • Illinois Electric Cooperative, $3.443 million, Calhoun County, for last-mile deployment to provide access to 841 unserved homes, businesses, farms and institutions.
  • Illinois Fiber Connect LLC, $4.874 million, Effingham County, for middle- and last-mile deployment to provide access to 844 unserved homes, businesses, farms and institutions.
  • JoCarrol Energy Cooperative, $6.05 million, Carroll, Jo Daviess, Stephenson and Whiteside counties, for a last-mile fiber project to provide access to 1,487 unserved homes, businesses, farms and institutions.
  • Madison Communications, $4.23 million, Macoupin and Madison counties, for middle- and last-mile project to serve about 9,283 businesses, farms, homes and institutions.
  • Mediacom 2, $249,424, Edgewood, Effingham County, for last-mile deployment to serve 248 unserved homes, businesses and institutions.
  • Mediacom 3, $210,831, Franklin, Morgan County, for last-mile deployment to provide access to 240 unserved homes, businesses and institutions.
  • Oneida Telephone Exchange, $576,900, Sparta-Henderson Township, Knox County, for last-mile project to provide access to 41 unserved homes, businesses and farms.
  • Shawnee LEC 1, $2.264 million, Johnson County, for last-mile FTTP services to six communities.
  • Shawnee LEC 2, $3.525 million, Williamson and Johnson counties, for last-mile FTTP services to five communities in the two counties.
  • Shawnee LEC 3, $1.183 million, Saline County, for last mile FTTP services to two communities.
  • Spectrum Mid-America, $214,822, Bethalto, Freeburg, Granite City, Lebanon, North Woodlawn and O’Fallon, St. Clair County, for network to provide access to many unserved households.
  • Wabash Telephone, $1.591 million, Clay County, for middle- and last-mile deployment to provide access to 659 unserved homes, businesses, farms and institutions.