First-time and faster, more reliable broadband internet service is coming to underserved areas of rural Whiteside and Carroll counties, thanks to about $10.3 million in state Rebuild Illinois funds awarded to three area providers.
The nonprofit Jo-Carroll Energy cooperative, which is based in Elizabeth, was awarded $4,688,840 for work in Whiteside, Carroll, and Jo Daviess counties; Quad-Cities-based internet provider Strada Communications received $5 million for work in Rock Island and Whiteside counties; and Comcast’s share is $595,300 for work in Whiteside County.
The money comes from a pool of $47 million in Connect Illinois funding, which will pay for 22 broadband expansion projects statewide. Connect Illinois is part of the Rebuild Illinois infrastructure program.
Jo-Carroll Energy and Sand Prairie Internet
Jo-Carroll Energy’s grant will be matched by the cooperative, bringing its total project to nearly $9.4 million to upgrade its Sand Prairie fiber internet service.
With the money, JCE plans to build out 146.8 miles of fiber “to bring Sand Prairie fiber to approximately 625 households, businesses or farms in rural portions of Whiteside, Carroll and JoDaviess counties,” including rural areas north of Mount Carroll, and in Fenton, Fulton, Garden Plain and Albany, it said in a news release.
A timeline for the project will be announced soon. In the meantime, the grant areas have been added to Sand Prairie’s fiber communities map at connectSP.com and are identified as MTC9 and GPN1 (click on fiber communities and find it under grants).
Those interested can go to the website to sign up for service; others who already have indicated their interest will get an email with a customized link to sign up for service, the release said.
“This expansion of Sand Prairie broadband will provide numerous benefits to our communities,” and especially to farmers, Jesse Shekleton, director of broadband operations, said in the release.
“Building a fiber network that provides the ultimate in broadband services to the farms and residences of the area will enable these members to access applications and tools to make their operations more efficient and enhance crop production,” Shekleton said. “The economic benefit of helping agri-business be more successful will trickle down to other businesses and individuals in and around the area.”
Those in need of telehealth services and students and others working from home also will benefit, JCE President and CEO Mike Casper said in the release.
Casper and Shekleton thanked those residents and businesses that provided letters of support for the cooperative’s grant application.
“Access to reliable, affordable high-speed broadband is vital to the overall prosperity of our region of northwest Illinois,” Casper said. “As one of our members noted, they ‘needed it yesterday.’
This grant is the fourth the cooperative has received for its fiber-to-the-premise projects. Additional applications are pending, the release said.
Last year, JCE was awarded a $14 million USDA ReConnect grant, also to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas.
Sand Prairie is using that money to bring a high-speed, fiber-to-the-premise network to more than 3,000 homes in about 250 square miles in rural portions of Jo Daviess, Carroll, Whiteside and Stephenson counties, including the rural Savanna, Chadwick and Prophetstown areas, according to the website.
The grant will be used ”to deploy a fiber-to-the-premise network to an area with 7,629 people, 378 farms, 150 businesses, eight public schools, three fire stations, two post offices and two museums” in those four counties, the company said in a previous news release.
The work will be done within five years, as required by the grant, although plans call for the build to be done in four years or less.
In Whiteside County, Comcast will use its nearly $600,000 grant to upgrade broadband service to 179 homes in an unincorporated area north of Sterling that is north of Science Ridge Road, south of Fulfs Road and west of Hickory Hills Road, improving speeds, the company said in an email.
“This project will improve underserved levels up to 1 gigabit per second down and 35 megabits up,“ the email said.
Strada Communications also has not yet returned calls seeking details on its plan for its $5 million state grant.
According to its website, Strada is a locally owned and operated internet service provider with more than 600 customers in the Rapids City and Port Byron area.
It is in the process of bringing fiber internet to Erie, installing lines at no cost to the homeowner, and has and “opt out” option for those who don’t want a fiber line coming to their homes.
Go to stradacomm.com for a map of the build area in Erie and other information.