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Region 1 Planning Council gets portion of $300K state grant program

The program was created to assist some of the most underserved areas of the state with building broadband capacity.
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Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 12:36 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The Region 1 Planning Council in Winnebago County was named as one of the recipients of the llinois Connected Communities grant program.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Office of Broadband announced the first recipients on Thursday.

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 the Region 1 Planning Council.

The program was created to assist some of the most underserved areas of the state with building broadband capacity, according to Gov. Pritzker’s Office.

Through cross-sector collaboration, this new program directs $150,000 in state-funded small grants for 12 community and local government partners to lead the development of strategic plans to ensure access, adoption, and utilization of high-speed broadband in their communities. The state grants will be paired with $150,000 in philanthropic matching funds.

These grants will help lay the groundwork for individual communities to play a part in a statewide high-speed internet expansion, Connect Illinois, a $420 million program to bring basic access to all communities by 2024, according to Gov. Pritzker’s Office.

“For too long, too many of our neighborhoods and towns and counties and communities have been left out of the digital revolution and, in an increasingly competitive global economy, we simply cannot afford to leave any Illinoisan behind when it comes to high speed connectivity. This is about the right of all our communities to access health care, education, and economic opportunity,” Gov. Pritzker said. “The grants announced today will deliver real opportunities to Illinois residents and help us reach our goal of delivering near-ubiquitous broadband access to every corner of Illinois in the coming years.”

The first Illinois Connected Communities cohort includes four school districts, two community-based organizations, two local governments, two county-level organizations and two economic development groups, according to Gov. Pritzker’s Office.

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, according to Gov. Pritzker’s Office.

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