Quinn celebrates completion of broadband project

Staff Writer
Chillicothe Times-Bulletin

NORMAL – Gov. Pat Quinn announced Friday the completion of a nearly $100 million, four-year project to build more than 1,000 new miles of high-speed fiber-optic broadband infrastructure in 55 Illinois counties. Supported by the Quinn's Illinois Jobs Now! construction program, the project created nearly 700 jobs expanding access to high-speed broadband services to nearly four million households and more than 285,000 businesses. The network is part of the Quinn's agenda to create jobs and drive Illinois’ economy forward.

“High-speed internet access is a proven economic driver throughout America and the world,” Quinn said. “By investing in this unprecedented expansion of Illinois’ broadband infrastructure, we are keeping Illinois’ comeback going by laying the groundwork for jobs and economic growth for generations to come.”

A total of 1,800 miles of fiber-optic cable was funded through the project. This includes more than 1,000 miles of new installation and 750 miles of fiber that was either leased or activated with grant funds. The new network connects more than 400 anchor institutions, including 24 community colleges, across 55 counties in Illinois. Residential broadband service providers can leverage the fiber network to affordably extend their services into communities with little or no broadband service today. The project quadrupled the capacity of the Illinois Century Network (ICN).

School districts and students will benefit from faster access to online educational tools and content through ICN’s high-speed broadband infrastructure. Communities are also leveraging the significantly faster ICN to help reduce the cost of providing internet access and broadband service.

“Our Internet speed is 25 times faster than before, with plenty of room for future growth,” Iroquois West Community Unit School District #10 Information Technology Director Brian Eggemeyer said. “The ICN’s increased capacity will have a positive impact on every student in our district for years to come.”

The project was funded by a $62 million competitive award from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) matched by $24 million from the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program and nearly $10 million in other state, local and private funding.

The 55 Illinois counties included in the new broadband network are Adams, Bond, Brown, Cass, Champaign, Christian, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Coles, Cook, Crawford, Cumberland, DeWitt, Douglas, DuPage, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Fulton, Grundy, Iroquois, Jasper, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, Lawrence, Livingston, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Mason, McDonough, McHenry, McLean, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Peoria, Piatt, Pike, Richland, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, Shelby, St. Clair, Tazewell, Vermilion, Will and Woodford.

The $100 million high-speed network project was coordinated by the Illinois Broadband Opportunity Partnership (IBOP), a statewide consortium of public and private sector partners organized by Quinn and led by Illinois State University and the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS).

“We are excited to complete this construction to help bring broadband services to schools and communities across the state,” CMS Acting Director Simone McNeil said. “With Governor Quinn’s leadership and our partnership with Illinois State University, our team’s combined, statewide broadband efforts have helped to ensure the success of this critical project.”

“With the ICN, we have increased our Internet bandwidth by nearly five times, reduced our cost by more than 20 percent and are delivering an overall better Internet experience,” Kankakee Community College Information Technology Services Director Michael S. O’Connor said.

The state’s coordinated broadband efforts also resulted in an additional $197 million in ARRA funding, to help ensure the same fiber installed as part of the completed project will be able to transmit even higher speeds and capacity in the future.

Governor Quinn is a long-time advocate of broadband-based opportunities in Illinois. He made funding for technology projects a priority and included it in his Illinois Jobs Now! capital program. For more information, visit Broadband.Illinois.gov.