SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Wednesday that the state is releasing $50 million in funding for the first round of matching grants of Connect Illinois, the new $420 million statewide broadband expansion.
Applicants are required to provide at least 50% of non-state funding, effectively doubling the size of the nation’s largest state competitive grant program to expand high-speed internet.
“We’re beginning to deliver on an ambitious 4- year plan to deliver broadband to homes, businesses and community institutions like hospitals and libraries in every corner of the state,” said Pritzker. “I want to be clear: This isn’t about a person’s ability to check Facebook. This is about a small business owner having the tools 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.”
Applicants are anticipated to include internet service providers, rural cooperatives, nonprofits and local governments. Grant responses for the initial $50 million round of funding can be submitted through Friday, April 3, 2020. Up to $5 million per project will be available during the first round, and subsequent rounds will follow over the course of the next several years.
“This is about giving children the ability to research their homework assignments online,” Pritzker said. “In short, this is about the right of all our communities to access health care, education, and economic opportunity.”
Connect Illinois is centered around three main outcomes: education, telehealth, and economic development. It aims to provide universal access to basic broadband for homes, businesses, and community anchor institutions by 2024.
The Rebuild Illinois capital plan dedicated $420 million toward broadband expansion — $400 million for the grant program and $20 million to strengthen the Illinois Century Network. The matching requirements in the grant program will leverage state funds to attract at least an additional $400 million from internet service providers.
The Notice of Funding Opportunity is available online at https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/AboutDCEO/GATA/Pages/2366-1333.aspx.