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Lawmakers seek to provide internet to every household through grants

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(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said it is a goal of his to bring internet to each Illinoisan no matter what. On Tuesday, state legislators discussed the Broadband Expansion program.

Lawmakers from the Legislative Budget Oversight Committee met with National Telecommunications and Information Administration officials to go over what is needed from the Internet for All Program to make that goal possible.

Greg Claus of NTIA explained what the Internet for All program grants will provide.

“You can think of this as the Internet Infrastructure Grant program, which is us trying to get access to everyone and build up the pipes of the internet to people’s homes, businesses, and farms directly,” Claus said.

According to Claus, Illinois has set aside $400 million for the broadband expansion program through the Rebuild Illinois Capital plan and will now move into phase two, with costs rising to up to $1 billion.

“Previously, Illinois has already submitted their letter of intent. They submitted a five-year action plan, they did a lot of local coordination and engaging stakeholders throughout the state to talk to them and learn what their issues are with connectivity,” Claus said. “Now they are in the initial proposal phase, which is developing a plan on how to connect all the underserved homes.”

The plan for the state is to begin the construction of internet pipes in those underserved communities. State Sen. Sally Turner, R-Beason, asked about how to implement broadband services safely.

“We have three municipalities in my district; one of them, their gasoline got hit seven times during the digs, another one in Clinton where their gas line was hit four times, and they had to cut the diggers off and wait until everything cleared out, and businesses closed,” Turner said. “We also had one in Mount Pulaski, Illinois, where their water main got hit four times.”

State Sen. Christina Castro had questions regarding the state’s ability to go forward with a plan this size.

“I know the state has its own broadband plan to the tune of $400 million; from what you see, do you feel we have the capacity, staff, and ability to roll out the billion-dollar plan in a timely fashion,” Castro asked.

The discussions will continue in the coming months as Claus said he will take the lawmaker’s questions to his team and come back with answers.

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