Rural Areas in Illinois Set to Benefit from $1.04 Billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program
MCLEAN COUNTY (25News Now) – McLean County in Illinois is set to receive a portion of the $1.04 billion funding allocated to the state through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program. The aim of this funding is to enhance access to high-speed internet, particularly in underserved rural areas.
Assistant County Administrator Anthony Grant highlighted the negative impact of the lack of internet access in these areas. He emphasized that it hampers business operations, slows down remote work, and deprives children of the opportunity to participate in remote learning.
Grant emphasized the importance of the internet in today’s world, stating, “Internet is a necessity of life. Every business, every person, everything we do today has something to do with the internet.”
Curt Braffert, owner of Braffert Berry Farm and Orchard in Carlock, shared his personal experience of dealing with unreliable internet since the 1990s. Braffert mentioned how slow internet speed has hindered the growth of his business, causing him to face difficulties during transactions.
He explained, “Almost every time I either tap or slide a card, I kind of hold my breath hoping that the transaction will go through.” Braffert added that he has to spend extra money on outsourcing payroll and sometimes relies on customers’ word to receive payment when card transactions fail.
Braffert expressed his relief and anticipation for the introduction of high-speed internet, which will enable him to enhance customer experience and expand his business’s online presence.
County officials have identified inaccuracies in the current map of internet service providers, leading them to urge residents to take the BEAD Test. This test measures internet speed and records the location of the user. The data collected through this test will help determine the areas in need of internet access and the corresponding grant money required.
Grant emphasized the importance of identifying unserved or underserved properties accurately, as it will determine the eligibility for grant funding. The county aims to deploy fiber optic internet in the areas that require it the most. The funds are expected to be awarded later this year, and high-speed internet is projected to be available within the next five years.
McLean County is hopeful that this funding will bridge the digital divide and provide equal opportunities for all residents to thrive in the digital age.