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BBBUNKER HILL – Continuing his efforts to close the broadband gap, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) announced the availability of three programs to improve access to internet services Downstate.

Manar, who chairs the Senate Appropriations II Committee and serves as a lead budget negotiator for the Illinois Senate Democrats, has long advocated for the modernization of high-speed internet infrastructure in Downstate communities.

 

“High-speed internet access is going to play a monumental role in the role of the recovery of the Downstate economy, and that’s why I insisted we fund these programs in the state budget,” Manar said. “Closing the broadband gap has never been more critical.”

 

Today’s announcement signals applications are open for two funding opportunities. The first, Broadband READY Grants, will direct $250,000 to regional entities to increase broadband access, adoption and utilization in underserved areas. Grant awards of up to $50,000 will be used to identify current digital inequities and work with community and economic development organizations, education, and local leaders to pave a path forward. More information on this grant can be found on the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website. The submission deadline is December 23, 2020.

The second, Illinois Connected Communities Grants will invest $150,000 in local governments that seek to expand broadband within their communities. It will allow communities to apply for up to $15,000 in grants that will support community-based broadband planning and capacity building. More information for this grant can also be found on DCEO’s website. The submission deadline is January 25, 2021.

Additionally, the State will partner with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and PCs for People to dispatch digital navigators to serve communities throughout the state. Their task will be to assess residents’ needs and connect with them to resources that match their households’ lifestyles. Those interested in the digital navigator position can find more information on DCEO’s website. The submission deadline is January 11, 2021.

“The past eight months have highlighted the glaring disadvantage many Downstate communities face when it comes to reliable access to quality internet service, and those issues are not going away any time soon,” Manar said. “These meaningful investments in rural communities will finally allow us to upgrade our position within the 21st Century economy.”