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‘Connect Illinois’ bringing broadband internet to Henry County

Published: Jun. 25, 2020 at 12:33 AM CDT
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GENESEO, Ill. (KWQC) - Broadband internet access is coming to Henry County. It's part of Connect Illinois, an over $400 million initiative to bring high-speed broadband internet access to all parts of the state by 2024.

"This is historic. Connect Illinois is the largest state matching grant program for broadband development in the nation's history," Gov. Pritzker said at an announcement at Olson Acres farm in Geneseo on Wednesday.

According to the governor, the first round of $50 million in state grants are matched by $65 million in non-state funding. The $115 million expands access for more than 26,000 homes, businesses, farms, and community institutions across the state.

"Our $400 million will be more than doubled with funds from private partner, the federal government, local governments," Gov. Pritzker said.

As part of the $50 million in grants, $5 million is going towards a broadband internet project by Geneseo Communications.

"Our $5 million investment here in Western Illinois, matched by Geneseo Communication's own $8.4 in funds, will install fiber that will enable precision agriculture at farms like the Olson's," Michael Negron, Acting Director for the Illinois Dept. of Economic & Community Development said.

The project in Henry County will provide high-speed internet to 3,700 businesses, farms, homes, and community centers. An estimated 40 percent of farmers lack reliable internet access.

"High speed internet access is just as important for a farm family like the Olson's here as it is for a large corporation in a Chicago high-rise," Mike McClain, President and CEO for Geneseo Communications, said.

Gov. Pritzker said reliable internet is important for all people in the state. According to the governor, the COVID-19 pandemic made that more apparent than ever before.

"Connect Illinois is about the right of all of our communities to access healthcare, and education, and economic opportunity. In the 21st century, all of those rights are tied in some way to digital connectivity," Gov. Pritzker said.

Applicants were eligible for up to $5 million per project and required to provide a funding match of at least 50 percent.

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