FCC Awards $100M For Rural Broadband In Illinois

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — Rural parts of Illinois could finally get high-speed internet thanks to new federal grants.

Almost $100 million in funding is coming from the Federal Communications Commission from a fund created with some of those fees found on phone and internet bills.

Illinois Telecommunications Association President Randy Nehrt said the grants were awarded through a bidding process.

“The result is nine companies winning bids totaling $100 million over that 10-year period to serve about 32,000 locations in the state,” he said.

The funding will bring high-speed internet to hard-to-reach areas. Nehrt described them as “rural areas in Illinois here that are unserved or don’t have high-quality broadband service at this time.”

The largest grant went to Wisper ISP, which will get $35 million to serve 9,000 new customers in southern Illinois. The grants were awarded through a reverse auction process where companies started at a higher bid to serve an area. The winning bid was the lowest price offered by a provider.

“Various companies were able to bid through an auction to receive federal funding to help build out networks and expand service to 32,000 locations in the state,” Nehrt said.

The buildouts over the next 10 years will offer new customers high-speed internet through various technologies including broadband, satellite, fiber optics and dedicated service lines (DSL). Nehrt said folks in rural areas have been underserved because it costs so much to build the infrastructure to serve those communities.

“Rural areas are some of the highest cost areas to serve either due to lower population density, or geographic or topographic issues,” Nehrt said.

One stipulation of the grant money is that the companies winning the auctions must bring service to at least 40 percent of the new customers within three years. They have 10 years to complete the projects.