Illinois Connected Communities is a partnership among the Illinois Office of Broadband, the Evanston-based Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, and local philanthropy. The program is designed to engage a first-year cohort of communities through best practice curriculum, expert consultation, and a state grant of up to $15,000.
The initial cohort includes four school districts, two community-based organizations, two local governments, two county-level organizations, and two economic development groups:
- Brown County School District 1
- City of Harvey
- Housing Authority of Champaign County
- Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois
- Mattoon School District 2
- McKinley Park Development Council
- Mercer County Better Together
- Neighborhood Network Alliance
- Palatine School District 15
- Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163
- Region 1 Planning Council (Winnebago County and City of Rockford)
- Village of Flanagan
Local philanthropic contributions raised to date will support more than 50 hours of free expert consultation and best-practice curriculum for each of the twelve Illinois Connected Communities. Guidance will include assisting communities to define their technology goals; measuring current levels of broadband access, adoption, and use; and seeking technical assistance and other funds to meet community needs.
By the end of the 12-month program, each Illinois Connected Community will have completed a community-driven, broadband strategic plan that articulates the community’s broadband vision and identifies an action plan for progress toward improved broadband access in the areas of community and economic development, education, civic engagement, healthcare, agriculture, and more.
The implementation of broadband strategic plans builds on concerted efforts by the Pritzker administration to increase broadband capacity and is critical for the economic growth of Illinois communities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just last month, Governor Pritzker launched an historic $50 million investment in broadband infrastructure, which pairs $65 million in nonstate matching to deliver high-speed reliable access to more than 26,000 homes, farms and businesses. This initial investment is part of the Governor’s 4-year plan, Connect Illinois, to bring universal access to communities across Illinois. Connect Illinois contemplates a second round of grants later this year.