Illinois broadband initiative gets $13 million infusion

Through a combination of state and federal grants, northern Illinois will receive $13 million in capital funds meant to improve broadband access, Governor Pat Quinn said last week. A project meant to develop high-speed, low-cost broadband infrastructure in the DeKalb region is poised to receive the bulk of the funds, where approximately 3,600 businesses and an estimated 34,000 households will have access to the network.

The $13 million funding includes $1.3 million in Illinois Jobs Now! funds for the DeKalb Advancement of Technology Authority (DATA), which will leverage another $11.9 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, officials said.

The DATA is a public-private consortium dedicated to providing broadband access to schools, colleges, municipalities, medical facilities and other community agencies. Their main goal is a fiber-optic network that will cost nearly $15 million over the next two years, but will service almost 38,000 households and businesses, while employing upwards of 50 construction and technical maintenance jobs for the next two to three years.

“Access to affordable high-speed internet is critical in today’s economy. Unfortunately, too many people in Illinois are being left out of the broadband revolution,” Gov. Quinn said in a statement. “This important funding will expand broadband access to communities throughout northern Illinois and help ensure no one is left out.”

So far, the state has designated a total of $50 million in matching funds for exceptional projects that are awarded federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program funding. The state also recently received $1.8 million for broadband data collection, mapping and planning activities.

Applications for round two of the stimulus broadband funding are due by March 15, 2010.