SPRINGFIELD — The state is accepting applications for the first $50 million in disbursements of a $420 million grant program aimed at increasing internet access across the state.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the release of funding Wednesday at Ridgely Elementary School in Springfield, noting that the rights to “health care and education and economic opportunity” are all “tied to digital connectivity” in the 21st century.
“I want to be clear though,” he said, “This isn’t about a person’s ability to go online and just look at their Facebook page. This is about a small business owner having the tools that she needs to reach new customers. This is about an elderly couple’s ability to get access to medical experts anywhere in the nation, even if they live in a rural community. This is about giving children like the ones that are here today the ability to research their homework assignments online.”
The program, known as Connect Illinois, is part of the $45 billion capital infrastructure plan that the General Assembly passed last year.
Applications for the first $50 million can be submitted through Friday, April 3. Applicants can receive up to $5 million per project as part of the first round of funding, but they must provide at least 50 percent of the project’s funding.
Matt Schmit, head of the office of broadband within the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said he expects applicants to include internet service providers, rural broadband cooperatives and possibly communities looking to invest in broadband.