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DIGITAL DIVIDE

With world-class high-speed communications technology, Illinois businesses and consumers can compete and succeed in the global economy. Although their geographic isolation makes access to the Internet especially important, rural areas are often the last to get access to high-speed Internet services. GRAC member agencies have several initiatives to increase access to all Illinois communities.

The Broadband Deployment Council (BDC) was created by Governor Blagojevich as a result of recommendations in a 2004 report (Illinois Online: Recommendations for Universal Access) commissioned by the GRAC. Quarterly council meetings are open to the public. The BDC’s primary goal is to position Illinois as America’s leading broadband technology state by working to improve the cost and speed of advanced network services.

Some of the Council’s recent accomplishments include:

  • Helping the Illinois Rural HealthNet secure $21,000,000 from the FCC to create a statewide telehealth network
  • Hosting the 10th Annual National Rural Telecom Congress conference in Springfield
  • Starting the Vince DeMuzio Rural Broadband Pilot Project in Macoupin-Montgomery Counties
  • Supporting the ConnectSI regional effort to improve broadband technology options in the southernmost 20 counties of Illinois
  • Serving as a information clearinghouse on broadband funding and projects in Illinois
  • Organizing three subcommittees to address broadband infrastructure, policy and demand issues
  • Creating wireless networks with the Illinois Main Street Program in Belleville, Carbondale, Mt. Vernon & Quincy
  • Providing a public forum for citizens, policymakers and private industry to address current telecom issues
  • Publicizing the Illinois Commerce Commission’s Digital Divide Grants
  • Publicizing the Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity’s Community Technology Center grants
  • Organizing the Deaf Broadband Access Task Force for citizens with disabilities seeking affordable broadband service
  • Supporting many public, community wireless Internet zones across the State of Illinois
  • Building demand for broadband service by supporting school laptop programs (TIPP and I-Connect)
  • Hosting the founder of the “XO” computer at the “Give One Get One” worldwide education campaign kick-off
  • Drafting the Children’s Low-Cost Laptop Act (HB5000) to increase student computer use

Three broadband projects supported by members of the Broadband Deployment Council:

Princeton (pop. 7,501) is one of the first municipalities in the U.S. to deploy Broadband-Over-Power lines (BPL) and is now expanding this service to all its residents. This technology allows residents to access broadband Internet simply by plugging into their electrical sockets.

Rochelle (pop. 9,424) is the hub of the Northern Illinois Technology Triangle—a collaborative effort to bring better connectivity to Northern Illinois. The effort was awarded a $1,000,000 Digital Divide Infrastructure Elimination Grant to continue its efforts. The Northern Technology Triangle will connect a 549 square mile area surrounding the City of Rochelle.

Sullivan (pop. 4,326) will also deploy new technology to provide broadband access for economic and community development. In Sullivan, a municipal fiber system will serve high capacity business needs and residential users. Implementation of a Broadband over Power Line system will bring services to areas where wireless and fiber services are unavailable. Ensuring that every resident has access to affordable broadband connectivity will make Sullivan an even more attractive place to work and live.

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 Digital Divide

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