Federal, state, local and private sectors discuss getting rural broadband in Illinois

Federal, state, local and private sectors discuss getting rural broadband in Illinois

ILLINOIS (IRN) — Federal, state and local officials are working with private companies ahead of a major investment designed to bring broadband internet access to some of the more remote parts of Illinois.

 

Illinois Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan said they want to make substantial progress with state, federal and private partners in the next four to five years for rural broadband. While such technology isn’t directly in the Department of Agriculture’s wheelhouse, Sullivan said it’s important to the agricultural industry.

 

“The technology in agriculture is increasing every single day and we need faster speeds and more accessibility, but so does everybody else, about every other residence and business in the state of Illinois,” Sullivan said.

 

Sullivan said there’s $420 million set aside in the state’s recently enacted capital bill. That $45 billion capital plan will be funded by the state’s higher gas tax along with increased driver fees and other increased taxes and fees.

 

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said state funds will be coupled with federal dollars for the effort.

 

“We don’t need dollars coming into communities, like Taylorville, that have three broadband providers, but we certainly need dollars going out to the very rural areas of our state,” Davis said.

 

Davis met with Sullivan last month to discuss how the federal government and state government will work together. Davis met Tuesday with municipal leaders and internet service providers to discuss the next steps.

 

Among those Davis met with at Blackburn College in Carlinville was a mayor who said getting broadband to more remote parts of the state could help attract industry and a private broadband provider who said the less red tape will make it easier to expand access.

 

Taylor Springs Mayor Elwin Saathoff said his town’s internet service is just about nonexistent.

 

“They have satellites and various things they’ve done to try to do things,” he said. “It’s either so high or so poor that they’re not happy with it.”

 

Saathoff said getting broadband service to his town of 600 could help attract economic expansion.

 

Computer Techniques Inc. is a company that installs fiber for broadband service in parts of Illinois. CTI President Billy Williams said the company focuses on smaller municipalities where there’s less bureaucracy, which means lower costs.

 

“We could go to a larger market and have more of that engineering and planning and everything all in advance or we could go to a smaller community where we don’t have to deal with any of that and we can just build the network,” Williams said.

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