Governor Pritzker is committed to establishing Illinois as a leader when it comes to technology and innovation. Access to broadband is a critical component of staying ahead of the curve and will improve the lives of families, entrepreneurs, farmers and other Illinoisans who rely on high-speed broadband for everything from healthcare to education.
Governor Pritzker launched a statewide initiative in August 2019, Connect Illinois, to expand broadband access across the entire state. Connect Illinois includes a capital investment from Rebuild Illinois, the creation of a Broadband Advisory Council and Broadband Office, and a new program that will provide all Illinois public K-12 students access to high-speed broadband at no charge. The initiative also includes a $400 million broadband grant program and a $20 million capital program for the Illinois Century Network, a high-speed broadband network serving K-12 and higher education institutions, among others.
The first round of funding was announced in June 2020. The second funding round is accepting applications until April 12, 2021.
Illinois Broadband Grant Program
Rebuild Illinois, the Illinois infrastructure program, includes $400 million to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for a statewide broadband deployment grant program. This appropriation will begin to expand access to reliable, high-speed internet service statewide. According to the USDA, fully utilizing digital technologies within the agriculture industry could create approximately $47 to $65 billion annually in additional gross benefit for the U.S. economy.
Illinois Century Network
Rebuild Illinois includes $20 million for the Illinois Century Network (ICN), to repair and expand the broadband network for schools, refresh aged components of the network and expand the existing network, with a focus on the K-12 portion.
The ICN is a high-speed broadband network serving K-12 and higher education institutions, public libraries and museums, state and local governments, and broadband service providers. This appropriation will also allow the ICN to provide internet and intranet connectivity for thousands of sites statewide, ensuring high availability for cloud-based content, disaster recovery services, and data, video, and audio communications. The network owns or leases approximately 2,100 miles of fiber optic cables throughout the state and interconnects with multiple regional public and private networks throughout Illinois.
Broadband Advisory Council
In the coming months, the Illinois Broadband Advisory Council will be developing an action-plan to bring reliable broadband service to every corner of the state. The Council is comprised of 21 voting members and 4 non-voting members.
Illinois K-12 Broadband Initiative
Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology are excited to announce that state funding has been allocated for a secure K-12 Broadband Network available at no cost for all Illinois K-12 public schools.
This program removes barriers that limit access to secure Internet bandwidth in today’s digital learning environment. The key objective is to provide connectivity through the ICN, ensuring every Illinois public K-12 school has sufficient and fully funded bandwidth to meet the needs of their students, faculty, and administration.