ELIZABETH – A $14 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will accelerate buildout of high-speed fiber internet to rural areas by Jo-Carroll Energy’s broadband division, Sand Prairie.
USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand was in Elizabeth on Monday, Oct. 19 to announce the investment to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in Illinois. The grant is part of the $550 million Congress allocated to the second round of the ReConnect program.
“In this day and age, all of America needs robust, modern infrastructure to thrive. This is a necessity and not an amenity,” Brand said. “This pandemic has only highlighted the digital divide even more.”
“If you have access to high-speed broadband internet, you can incorporate precision agriculture technology into your agribusiness. You can participate in distance learning, both for you and your children or grandchildren. You can access life-saving medical services remotely using telemedicine. And, you can continue to run your business and keep your staff employed all from your home,” she continued. “The USDA is fully committed to deploying high-speed internet e-connectivity to the nation’s rural communities for all of those reasons.”
Jo-Carroll Energy and Sand Prairie will use the $14 million grant to bring high-speed fiber broadband access to an area covering approximately 250 square miles in portions of Jo Daviess, Stephenson, Carroll and Whiteside counties.
Mike Casper, JCE president and CEO, thanked the USDA for recognizing the importance of high-speed broadband in rural America.
Asked the question what the grant means to members, Casper said, “Two simple words, the future. Successful growth in rural America and economic development depends on a robust infrastructure, fiber being an essential component.”
Echoing Brand’s earlier comments, Casper noted the impact fiber will have on agriculture, education and telemedicine.
“With rural high-speed broadband, our farming community can, more broadly, utilize advanced technologies to improve efficiencies,” Casper continued. “Our commercial and industrial members will be on a level playing field with their urban and global competitors. More of our members can successfully work, improve their education and receive medical care from home while enjoying the beauty and safety of rural America.”
Brand said the USDA is committed to leveraging all available resources and being a strong partner to rural communities in deploying high-speed broadband e-connectivity to the people, businesses and community facilities that don’t yet have access.
“Jo-Carroll is setting a great example for the rest of the country right here in Illinois,” Brand said. “They are showing that no household, no business, no person should be left behind in this critical infrastructure deployment.”
To view a map of the grant areas, visit https://connectsp.com/fiber/communities/usda2020
To read the USDA press release visit https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2020/10/19/trump-administration-invests-14-million-high-speed-broadband-rural