March 14, 2022

Whiteside County among Inaugural Accelerate Illinois Program Cohorts

SPRINGFIELD – Whiteside County is among six communities selected to participate in the
inaugural cohort of the Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Planning Program. Team members from the Illinois Fiber Resources Group, NFP (iFiber) are playing an integral role in initiating the program in Whiteside County.
Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
(DCEO) Office of Broadband announced the selected communities in a press release dated
Feb. 24, 2022. The announcement was made in collaboration with Heartland Forward and the
Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. The other five inaugural participants are the City of Springfield, Jackson County, Knox County, Mercer County, and the Village of Elsah.
iFiber team members serving on Whiteside County’s steering committee helping to implement the program are Marc Thorson, Executive Director, Regional Technology Services, NIU/iFiber, and Daniel Payette, Executive Director, Blackhawk Hills Regional Council, and a member of the iFiber Outreach Team.
The 14-week intensive training program will help leaders from participating communities
develop broadband plans responsive to their unique local needs and position them to effectively leverage newly available state and federal broadband infrastructure funding. Whiteside County and other participants are launching community surveys to gather input and data from local residents and stakeholders to help shape their plans.
“Whiteside County needs a comprehensive plan to bring reliable, high-speed internet to our
students and families across our community,” said Joel Horn, County Administrator of Whiteside
County. “We’re grateful to be part of the Accelerate Illinois program, which will give us an
opportunity to help our institutions, agencies and organizations develop a plan to get our residents connected.”
Numerous organizations are participating in Whiteside County’s Accelerate program. Each has
a representative on the Whiteside County Accelerate Steering Team (WCAST). Participants
include three broadband infrastructure and service providers – iFiber, JoCarroll Energy, and
Surf Broadband. Both iFiber and JoCarroll Energy are not-for-profit organizations; Surf Broadband is a for-profit organization.
WCAST organizations include: Surf Broadband, ROE 47, Blackhawk Hills Regional Council,
Greater Sterling Development Corporation, Sauk Valley Chamber of Commerce, NIU Regional
Technology Services/iFiber, Sauk Valley Community College, SBDC at SVCC, Whiteside
County Health Department, Whiteside County, Whiteside County Administrator’s Office,
Whiteside County Economic Development, Whiteside County Farm Bureau, JoCarroll Energy,
Whiteside County Senior Center, and Tri-County Opportunities Council.
In the press release, Gov. Pritzker stated that broadband infrastructure is only as useful as it is
accessible to the people who need it. The state is partnering with local jurisdictions to develop broadband plans responsive to their unique local needs.
“Thanks to our Connect Illinois initiative and federal funding on the way from President Biden’s
infrastructure plan, there’s never been more potential to reach our goal of closing the digital
divide here in Illinois,” he said. “I’m grateful to Heartland Forward, the Benton Institute and all
our partners on the Accelerate Illinois program working to ensure communities across our state are prepared to utilize this funding effectively.”
With the recent passage of the $1 trillion federal infrastructure plan, Illinois communities stand
poised to receive historic funding for the expansion of broadband infrastructure. This is in
addition to Governor Pritzker’s bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital plan which dedicated $420
million to broadband expansion as well as funds made available through the American Rescue
Plan Act (ARPA). Accelerate Illinois aims to level the playing field and support cities and
counties of all sizes and staffing levels to apply for these funds and plan to most effectively implement them in their communities.
The Accelerate Illinois program is offered through a collaborative effort between the Illinois
Office of Broadband, the Illinois-based Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, and the University of Illinois Extension as well as funding by Heartland Forward.
The training is designed to guide communities through the process of establishing and
implementing a full-scale broadband connectivity vision. With more than 30 hours of no-cost
expert counsel provided by the Benton Institute, the program provides structured education and
engagement for communities to identify broadband goals, gather information and analyze
opportunities, understand available funding options, and target capital dollars to support implementation.
A core component of the program is the community survey to gather information from local residents, businesses, and community stakeholders about their current use of broadband and satisfaction with existing services. Accelerate program participants will gather input through both online and paper surveys. The online survey process will include a link to an internet speed test to show current broadband speeds and provide visual evidence of whether existing providers need to upgrade services or new providers should come in to meet the state’s broadband goals.
The Accelerate Illinois Notice of Collaboration originally opened in December as a pilot program
to serve up to 12 communities as part of this initiative. Six of the 12 communities have started in this cohort.
In addition to the first cohort of six communities, there will be a second cohort of Accelerate Illinois communities will be announced later this spring. For more information, visit the DCEO website.
February 8, 2022

Gov. Pritzker Announces $47 Million in Broadband Capital Investments

SPRINGFIELD – Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Office of Broadband recently announced $47 million in funding for 22 projects in every region of the state through the second round of Connect Illinois, the state’s broadband expansion plan.

To promote broadband access, the Illinois Office of Broadband is making $350 million in funding available through a third round of grants, which will be accepted and awarded on a rolling basis through 2024, or until funds are depleted. Funding for Connect Illinois is made possible by Governor Pritzker’s bipartisan $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital plan, the first comprehensive infrastructure program in Illinois in nearly a decade, as well as federal broadband funding available through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Round Two funding includes $23 million in Connect Illinois grant awards matched by $24 million in non-state funding for a total of over $47 million, with plans to expand broadband access to approximately 13,000 homes, businesses, farms, and community institutions across Illinois – through 22 new projects, with at least one in every region of the state.

“Thanks to these investments, thousands more families and businesses will have access to the economic opportunity, education, and healthcare that come with 21st century connectivity,” said Pritzker. “Connect Illinois is all about opening doors and closing gaps for our residents, delivering demonstrable change to people’s lives and real opportunity for new business development and new jobs. I’m grateful to our partners in making this round of projects possible – and with another $350 million already available for the next round, this impact is just the beginning.”

The second round of Connect Illinois grant awards includes 14 different internet service providers, rural cooperatives, and local governments– a diverse group of recipients representing every region of the state, with projects supporting fully scalable broadband infrastructure that will serve these areas for decades into the future.

Round Two Grant Awards:

Adams Telsystem Inc.                      $1,252,041   Adams, Pike
Bspeedy Wireless                             $152,108     Richland, Edwards, Jasper, Wabash, Lawrence,
Century Enterprises                           $215,120  Knox
Charter Spectrum – Bella Vista          $29,555  Madison
Charter Spectrum – Briars                  $99,556  St Clair
Charter Spectrum – Equus Lane        $109,320  Madison
Charter Spectrum – Huey                   $107,416  Clinton
Charter Spectrum – New Minden       $250,198  Washington
Charter Spectrum – Nichols Woods   $50,750  Winnebago, Clay, Crawford, Wayne
Clearwave                                          $500,000  Saline, Williamson, Johnson
Comcast – Leisure Time Est               $630,903  Vermilion
Comcast – Sterling                              $595,300  Whiteside
East Moline CUSD                             $1,706,494  Rock Island, Henry
Jo-Carroll Energy                               $4,688,840  Jo Daviess, Carroll, Whiteside
Mediacom – Dewey                            $117,054  Champaign
Mediacom – Valley View Est              $52,434  Rock Island
Mediacom – Wolf Creek                     $45,905  LaSalle
Metro Communications                      $292,118  Livingston
ProTek Communications                   $2,000,000  Williamson
Strada Communications                    $5,000,000  Rock Island, Whiteside
Village of Palatine                              $101,387  Cook
WKT Telecom Cooperative                $5,000,000  Union, Pulaski

“Connect Illinois grants continue to help expand broadband infrastructure across the state, bringing resources to communities that need it most,” said Acting DCEO Director, Sylvia I. Garcia. “We are investing in meaningful capital projects to provide high-speed, reliable internet to households and businesses that have lacked access – boosting education, jobs, and economic opportunity for communities across Illinois in the process.”

Grant applications were reviewed and evaluated on a competitive basis, with proposals evaluated in seven categories: project impact; nonstate match and demonstration of need; community support; project readiness; project viability and sustainability; affordability and adoption assistance; and open access, shared use and business strategy.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled for the 400 households in the Village of Flanagan who will be connected to essential, high quality broadband,” said Rep. Tom Bennett. “This Rebuild Illinois investment is making an incredible impact on the everyday lives of families in my district.”

“We all know about children who are unable to complete schoolwork because internet access isn’t widely available,” said Rep. Mike Halpin (D-Rock Island). “Rebuild Illinois’ investment in East Moline School District to install a network of 985 wireless Wi-Fi access points will go a long way in making sure that a relic of the past.”

”We are very excited about the state’s continued commitment to broadband expansion throughout Illinois, especially in the southwestern region,” said Gary Hoelscher, President, Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois. “Increasing equity in access, adoption, and use is an important step in ensuring people can pursue work and education opportunities despite other challenges they may face. Broadband growth also spurs economic development, which is a win for all.”

The $350 million available through the third round largely mirrors requirements of the first two notice of funding opportunities, with the exception that grant matching minimums will no longer be a requirement for applicants.  The program’s merit review process places value on qualified projects that also include significant nonstate match, thereby incentivizing applicants to contribute as much nonstate match as possible. To promote program efficiency and effectiveness, the maximum grant award will increase from $5 million to $10 million, with applicants invited to seek multiple grant awards over the next several years

“Through our participation in the Illinois Connected Communities program, we were given the tools and framework we needed to create a vision for our community’s broadband needs, and we’re happy our plan is coming to fruition,” said Village of Flanagan President Jeff Walace. “We look forward to working together with the State of Illinois and Metro Communications to bring high-speed broadband access to all our residents.”

To complement its historic $420 million broadband capital investment, the State of Illinois has introduced an increasingly robust portfolio of programs focused on local capacity building and planning (Illinois Connected Communities and Accelerate Illinois), regional engagement and resource integration (Broadband READY), digital literacy and skills building (Digital Navigators), and used computer refurbishment and distribution (Connect Illinois Computer Equity Network). These programs often combine state grant funding with stakeholder collaboration and expert consultation to put Illinois communities, organization, and households in a strong position to benefit from historic state and federal investment in broadband infrastructure and digital equity.

For more on Round 3 Connect Illinois, and Round 2 awards and other grant programs, please visit DCEO’s website or follow it on social at @IllinoisDCEO.

October 18, 2021

Scenes from “Meet in the Middle” at The Utility Expo

iFiber was a proud sponsor and participant in Planet Underground’s “Meet in the Middle” at The Utility Expo Sept. 28-30, in Louisville, KY. Planet Underground’s mission is simple: Be the spark that powers change in underground utility damage prevention. One of the ways it acts to accomplish its mission is to produce peer-to-peer learning events such as The Jobsite and The Roundtable. Both of these popular events were held at The Utility Expo. Planet Underground is a knowledge sharing organization whose primary focus is underground utility damage prevention. It offers media and networking events that provide valuable peer-to peer learning experiences. Damage prevention is the responsibility of excavators and underground utility owners. As an underground utility owner, iFiber is dedicated to damage prevention and in continuation with iFiber’s partnership with JULIE, Inc., it supports Planet Underground’s mission. JULIE is a non-profit corporation dedicated to keeping Illinois safe and connected.

iFiber’s Samantha Zamudio and Jen Uridil-Dolman at The Utility Expo.
Jen Dolman with Matt Streets and Mike Parilac from Planet Underground. This was Mike’s last event before he retires – congratulations Mike!
iFiber’s Jen Dolman participates in a RoundTable Live Discussion with representatives from INTREN, Pipeview America, and Badger Day Lighting. The topic was “Who doesn’t view damage prevention as a public safety issue?”
Jen Dolman with Fred Krienbrink – City of Naperville Electric & JULIE Board Member, Matt Turk – INTREN & former JULIE Board Member, and Josh Turk – Traffic Management.
iFiber’s Jen Dolman at an outdoor exhibit.
Representatives from USIC, Stake Center Locating, Texas 811, and Tennessee 811 discussing “Utility damage statistics: leading or misleading?” at a RoundTable Live Discussion.
August 27, 2021

iFiber Participates in The Utility Expo Sept. 28-30

iFiber is a proud sponsor and participant in Planet Underground’s “Meet in the Middle” at The Utility Expo Sept. 28-30, in Louisville, KY. Planet Underground’s mission is simple: Be the spark that powers change in underground utility damage prevention. One of the ways it acts to accomplish its mission is to produce peer-to-peer learning events such as The Jobsite and The Roundtable. Both of these popular events will be held The Utility Expo.

Planet Underground is a knowledge sharing organization whose primary focus is underground utility damage prevention. It offers media and networking events that provide valuable peer-to peer learning experiences. Damage prevention is the responsibility of excavators and underground utility owners.  Planet Underground believes communication, planning and cooperation between the two sides can go a long way, but that education is an important key in damage prevention. “Detection and avoidance” are one in the same and Planet Underground educates owners and excavators through video, print, live broadcast, and face-to-face gatherings.

As an underground utility owner, iFiber is dedicated to damage prevention and in continuation with iFiber’s partnership with JULIE, Inc., it supports Planet Underground’s mission. JULIE is a non-profit corporation dedicated to keeping Illinois safe and connected. It offers message processing and damage prevention education service for the safety and protection of underground facilities and the community. JULIE Inc. neither owns nor marks any underground utility lines.

To maximize protection from excavation damage, owners and excavators need to understand in a general way how utility systems work, what they are built of, how they appear above the surface, how they are mapped, the science behind detection technologies and the variables that impact accurate designation from the surface. The term “excavators” encompasses a wide-ranging group of companies and individuals, many which are never going to know this information. However, a majority of JULIE, Inc. one-call notifications are generated by owners and companies working for owners. Owners need knowledge of all utility systems, not just their system. The largest percentage of underground utility damages consist of an owner striking another owner.

iFiber is proud to be a sponsor in Planet Underground’s “Meet in the Middle” at The Utility Expo in Kentucky this September and hopes to see you there! For registration information, visit https://www.planetunderground.tv/meet-in-the-middle-planet-underground-at-the-utility-expo-2021/.

August 11, 2021

Call JULIE Before You Dig!

Whether it’s 811 Day or any other day, remember to call JULIE! Nearly 2 in 5 Illinois homeowners will put themselves, their families, and their communities at risk by digging without contacting @JULIE1call first. Always Call 811 before you dig to avoid service disruptions and damages to buried utilities.
April 6, 2021

Broadband Essential to Economy

Strong, reliable broadband networks like iFiber’s have been key to keeping the U.S. connected for more than a decade. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven even more broadband’s essential role in local, national and global economies. Details on a new survey of economic development experts about the value of broadband and digital technology as development tools, are featured in Broadband Communities magazine: https://www.bbcmag.com/…/broadband-essential-to-post…

March 26, 2021

New Members Serve iFiber, Ventures Boards

Four new board members joined the boards for iFiber and Illinois Fiber Ventures (iFiber’s for-profit arm) in January 2021. Joining were: Kevin A. Catlin, Boone County Administrator, who is serving as iFiber’s Vice Chairman; Todd Hughes, Information Technology Director for the City of Rockford, who joined both boards and serves as Vice Chair of the Fiber Ventures board; Jay Jorgensen, Co-Founder and COO of eX2 Technology, LLC, who joined the Illinois Fiber Ventures board, serving as Secretary/Treasurer; and Ray Montelongo, founder and president of Montel Technologies, who joined the Ventures board. Read more about the new members, along with their colleagues, on the iFiber Leadership & Board page.