broadband2 102120DANVILLE – To provide every Illinoisan fair and equal access to the internet, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is encouraging organizations in rural areas to apply for $50 million in available funding through the second round of the Connect Illinois broadband expansion program.

“Access to a high-speed internet connection is essential for people’s ability to work, learn and carry out business,” Bennett said. “Rural residents deserve a better approach to broadband—I encourage eligible applicants to apply for this next round of grants.” 

The second round of Connect Illinois grants will allow for up to $5 million per project and calls for a matching component, which requires companies to dedicate funding that will accelerate the delivery of broadband investments. Internet service providers, rural cooperatives, nonprofits and local governments are eligible to apply.

Residents across Vermilion County experience slower-than-average internet speeds: In Tilton and Westville, connection speeds are nearly one-third slower than the state average, and in Catlin and Rantoul, downloads take about twice as long.

“During the pandemic, the lack of broadband access has been particularly challenging for those trying to work and learn from home,” Bennett said. “Vermilion County residents have especially faced these barriers – It’s time to close the digital divide.”

Funding for the Connect Illinois program is made possible through Rebuild Illinois, the state’s historic, bipartisan $45 billion statewide construction program, which has dedicated $420 million to broadband infrastructure.

The application for this round of grants will remain open through February 2021. More information on the program can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website.