‘Broadband for All’ initiative to span several Northern Illinois counties

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 6:07 PM CDT
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STATELINE - An initiative between several area counties will soon offer rural areas more reliable Wi-Fi for all residents across the stateline.

Boone is one of at least four counties participating in the “Broadband for All Cohort” to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban communities. Pamela Lopez-Fettes with Growth Dimensions got the idea when she was approached by a local business several years ago.

“We’ve had these challenges across the board and I think that through COVID, this has just accelerated those issues,” she says.

One business that could benefit from faster internet is Bark About It in Poplar Grove. Owner Lauren Randall says slow internet speeds often force the pet food store to cancel sales and production.

“The internet router has to be reset from here at least twice a week. If that doesn’t even work and we have to contact Comcast and I go through their automated system where they reset it,” said Randall.

Randall hopes this new increased broadband initiative can provide businesses like hers with more consistent service. “We have sales online. So if the internet’s down then I don’t get to see those and I have a hard time doing the shipping for those and fulfilling our orders.”

This cohort can also help areas with poor internet signal - such as conservation areas - where residents will be able to call for help without the hassle of slow internet speeds.

“You can’t get the alerts you need for emergency planning. So we are trying to make it so that it is countywide,” says Belvidere Community Development Planner Gina DelRose.

Stephenson County is also interested in joining this initiative. One county aldermen says they plan to meet with the city of Freeport Thursday to further discuss this issue.

Lee County also participates in the initiative. Lee County Administrator Wendy Ryerson tells 23 News the following about their interest in the collaboration”

“COVID highlighted the need for improved broadband services in our county – particularly in the rural areas.  Lee County is committed to seeking solutions that will bring high-speed broadband to our school children, businesses, and our agribusiness citizens. “Broadband for All” is a critical first step, guiding us in the development of a strategic plan to achieve our goals.”

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