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Deadline approaching to challenge Illinois broadband map

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(The Center Square) – The time that Illinois residents will be able to challenge the look of the state’s broadband map is winding down.

Officials said it is an important process to verify the accuracy of the state’s availability map so funds will be distributed to the underserved areas. Underserved locations are those without reliable service of at least 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed.

“If you have much slower internet than what the state is believing, we need to flag those areas, so I encourage everyone to participate in the [Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity] broadband challenge process,” said state Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, and co-chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules which is dealing with the distribution of federal taxpayer broadband funding.

Illinois was awarded just over $1 billion in broadband equity program funds from federal taxpayers, to be spent over the next five years, from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to connect unserved and under-served locations to quality, affordable broadband service. Illinois is one of 19 states to receive over $1 billion.

In 2023, five Illinois counties participated in the Benton Institute’s Broadband Breakthrough Program. It was designed to inform local leaders on how broadband expansion happens, how to conduct community surveys, and how to get a piece of the federal funding.

Illinoisans can participate in the challenge phase by completing internet speed tests at BEADchallenge.org. Speed tests completed anytime through March 18 will be accepted.

At the statewide level, Connect Illinois was created in 2019 to achieve ubiquitous statewide broadband access for homes and businesses. At the same time, Connect Illinois will promote digital literacy, adoption and inclusion while leveraging investment in new broadband infrastructure to spur advances in such areas as economic development, education, precision agriculture and telehealth.

Greg Bishop contributed to this report.

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