The Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Planning Program is a new planning and capacity-building program designed to help Illinois communities leverage historic broadband infrastructure funding for community-driven broadband expansion and public-private partnership. The Accelerate Illinois program—a collaborative effort among the Illinois Office of Broadband, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, and University of Illinois Extension—offers Illinois local governments an intensive 14-week community engagement program with expert support provided by the Benton Institute. The opportunity is made possible through the financial support of Heartland Forward and its Connecting the Heartland Initiative.
The historic funding that is available through Connect Illinois and federal broadband programs—most notably through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—will significantly benefit communities that prepare in advance. The Accelerate Illinois program is designed to help communities do this preparation. It provides a platform for communities to build inclusive broadband teams; determine acceptable community roles; set visions; gather critical information about their local marketplace, technology options, and broadband provider partners; develop public-private partnerships, obtain financing, and implement projects.
The Accelerate Illinois program recognizes that not all communities are prepared to take advantage of these broadband funding programs. While communities will not receive grant funding, program participants each will benefit from 30-plus hours of free expert consultation and access to best-practice engagement in community-driven broadband planning. An initial six-community cohort runs February through May 2022, with a second cohort running May through August 2022. Please follow the Connect Illinois website and Illinois Broadband Connections newsletter for updates on the work of these initial cohorts as future opportunities.