Karrie Butterfield of Payson knows the frustrations of dealing with broadband service in rural areas.
The co-owner of an investment advisory firm, Butterfield said that service providers would make upgrades that resulted in changes to her service that added to her costs and affected her business.
“You can only imagine, being an investment advisory firm, and we’re trying to put in stock trades to get out of the market like yesterday and we can’t execute quickly enough,” she said.
Help is eventually on the way. Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday the appointment of a 25-member advisory council on upgrading broadband internet service in underserved downstate and rural areas. The group will develop the plan for spending $420 million contained in the new capital bill aimed specifically at upgrading high speed broadband service in those areas.
“High speed broadband internet is an absolute necessity for economic progress and educational attainment,” Pritzker said at a news conference at Ridgely School in Springfield. “But too many of our towns and our counties and our communities have been left out of the digital revolution, especially downstate.”
The task force — comprised of private sector representatives, lawmakers of both parties and members of Pritzker’s cabinet — is supposed to deliver a comprehensive plan by the end of the year on how best to use the money in the capital plan. The focus will be on improving high speech broadband service to advance education, telehealth and economic development.
“This will take, in total, several years to implement, no doubt about it,” Pritzker said of when people will see tangible benefits from the project. “But I think people will begin to see tangible progress over the next year and a half.”
He said the first areas to see improvements likely will be around cities that already have high speed broadband within their boundaries.
Pritzker also said he expects the $20 million in the capital plan is “enough for us to both expand existing interest, raise the speeds that exist in some areas and leverage dollars from the private sector, too.”
Pritzker said the state can either make it advantageous for private sector providers to go into underserved areas or it can take it upon itself to extend service in areas that would not be profitable for private companies.
Contact Doug Finke: email@example.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr