(TNS) — Calhoun County, Ill., residents are preparing for a faster onramp to the information superhighway.

On Thursday, Calhoun Elementary School hosted a news event to introduce a fiber optic network — a form of high speed internet connection — to the school districts in Calhoun County. With support from the Federal Communications Commission and the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Electric Cooperative is bringing the connectivity to the Calhoun and Brussels school systems.

Unlike other existing infrastructures, fiber optics uses light instead of electrical frequencies to transmit data. Construction of the network to the school is underway, with a projected start next spring for the rest of the county.

“For over five years, we’ve brought the importance and focus of finding a way to bring high speed broadband services to the residents of Calhoun County” said Tom Meehan, President of Illinois Electric Cooperative.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, told those gathered of a friend who remembered walking to his farmhouse at night and seeing light from it for the first time. Access to electricity changed the lives in that farmhouse, he said, adding he believes fiber optics will offer a similar effect for kids in Calhoun County.

“You (the students), your parents, farm and businesses in Calhoun County will have access to 21st Century technology,” Durbin said. “Finally, you don’t have to sit in the parking lot of the library trying to see if you can get your laptop to work.”

Superintendent Kate Sievers of the Calhoun County School District and Dr. Mark Martin of the Brussels School District both shared their excitement at the opportunities fiber optics will bring.

“Our students are going to have better access to internet,” Sievers said. “We’re going to have farmers that have better wifi for their equipment. And we have folks in our community that are going to be able to work from home now.”

Martin said he originally thought the fiber optics network was “too good to be true.”

“But it has proven not to be false,” he said. “It has actually come to fruition.”

State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville, said the technology was the “rural electrification of the 21st Century.”

“I couldn’t think of a better group to take the lead on this than Illinois Electric Cooperative,” he said.

State Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, said it was great that rural areas will now have instant access to the online world.

“Just to get a GPS (global positioning system) signal in the area to try to travel somewhere is difficult,” he said.

©2019 The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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