Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker launched Connect Illinois today, a $420 million statewide broadband expansion project included in the Rebuild Illinois capital plan.
Rebuild Illinois dedicated $400 million to partnering with Internet service providers and $20 million to the Illinois Century Network, which currently services K-12 schools, higher education, public libraries, museums, state and local governments, and the health-care community.
To oversee the broadband initiative, Pritzker appointed 25 people from the private and public sectors to a broadband advisory council, according to a press release.
Pritzker said Rebuild Illinois, which was passed and signed into law in June, will improve the state’s infrastructure and facilitate future economic and education growth.
“High-speed broadband Internet is an absolute necessity for economic progress and educational attainment, but too many of our towns and counties and communities have been left out of the digital revolution, especially downstate,” Pritzker said in a prepared statement. “Our Broadband Advisory Council will be guided by three areas of focus for Illinois’ success in the 21st century: education, telehealth and economic development. By working together, we’re going to Connect Illinois.”
The goal of Connect Illinois is to consolidate state resources and increase private- and public-sector collaboration to expand broadband access to benefit telehealth, education and economic development, the release states.
Chief Information Officer Ron Guerrier said he and others at the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) are pleased to be a part of the advisory council because it will bring digital equity to students across Illinois. Chief Technology Officer Lori Sorenson will serve on the council as the representative for DoIT.
“The expanded broadband program will provide high-speed, secure Internet access at no cost to Illinois K-12 public schools,” Guerrier said in a prepared statement. “Digital learning will soon be available to all in our state, regardless of geography or economics.”
State law requires Pritzker to appoint seven people from the telecommunications industry to the broadband advisory council, which includes Verizon, Comcast and AT&T, among others. Additionally, representatives from state agencies and the Legislature will fill out the council’s roster.
The broadband advisory council will present a report to the governor and the Legislature by Dec. 31 with recommendations for how to deploy high-speed Internet statewide.