Morrison, IL (March 31, 2022) - Whiteside County is taking the first step in providing the entire county with robust, reliable, and affordable fiber broadband internet access. The county joins the Village of Elsah, Jackson County, Knox County, Mercer County, and the City of Springfield in the inaugural cohort of the Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Planning Program.
Accelerate Illinois - a collaboration between the Illinois Office of Broadband, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, and University of Illinois Extension - offers local governments an intensive 14-week community engagement and planning program with expert support provided by the Benton Institute. The collaboration opportunity is made possible through the financial support of Heartland Forward and its Connecting the Heartland Initiative.
These communities will be hard at work from now until mid-May getting prepared for historic broadband infrastructure funding made available through Connect Illinois and federal broadband programs—most notably through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—as well as learning about local finance tools. 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.
James Duffy, Whiteside County Board Chair, explained, “Robust, reliable internet connectivity for every resident, business and organization in the county has been a challenge we’ve wrestled with for some time. The pandemic really brought this challenge to the forefront as remote work, education and telemedicine became necessities. It is obvious that many residents, businesses and organizations in Whiteside County do not have quality internet access. The number underserved and unserved locations is unacceptable, and the Connect Illinois and federal broadband programs will be our chance to rectify this.”
The first cohort of Accelerate Illinois kickoff meeting was held on February 3, 2022 with well over 70 participants representing the six different Illinois counties and local governments. Over 14 weekly sessions, participants will learn the basics of broadband, develop and distribute broadband surveys and speed tests, prepare for interviewing potential service providers, learn about funding opportunities, and prepare plans for their communities.
Joel Horn, Whiteside County Administrator, said, “Bringing fiber broadband internet access to the county will be a massive project for the county - engaging with the right partners, installing hundreds of miles of fiber, costing millions of dollars, and spanning several years. We want to get this right, and the initial planning process going on now is a crucial step. We will be communicating progress and next steps as warranted, and will be engaging the community as we move forward.”
Kim Ewoldsen, Morrison resident and ConnectWhiteside.org committee member, commented, “My family owns an agricultural business, I know about the broadband challenges and frustrations facing many of us in Whiteside County, and this a very exciting project. From an economic and quality of life basis, this will be a game changer for Whiteside County.”
Residents Encouraged to Take Broadband Survey
ConnectWhiteside.org, the 17-person committee working on the planning process for Whiteside County, will be releasing a user survey on March 31, 2022. The survey will be available online at connectwhiteside.org/survey. A Spanish language version of the online survey can be accessed at conecterwhiteside.org/encuesta, and paper version will be available. A paper version of the survey in both English and Spanish will also be available for those with no internet or poor internet service and will be available at several locations around the county (a list of locations appears at the end of this article).
Further information can be found at connectwhiteside.org, or by contacting Joel Horn, Whiteside County Administrator, at WCAdmin [at] whiteside [dot] org, or 200 E Knox St., Morrison, IL 61270, or (815) 772-5100.
Paper surveys available at:
Fulton City Hall, 415 11th Ave.
Henry C. Adams Memorial Library, 209W 3rd St.
Odell Library, 307 S Madison St; St. Peters Lutheran Church, 601 N. Jackson St; Whiteside County Courthouse, 200E Knox St (use Cherry St. entrance);
Rock Falls Library, 1007 7th Ave.; Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce, 601 W. 10th St.; Whiteside Area Housing Authority, 401 W 18th St; Tri-County Opportunity Council, 405 Emmons Ave; Blackhawk Hills Regional Council, 309 1st Ave; Whiteside County Health Department, 1300 W 2nd St
Whiteside County Senior Center, 1207 W 9th; Illinois Extension Office, 12923 Lawrence Rd; La Laguna, 301 Ave. G; El Vaquero, 1219 W 4th St; Sterling Public Library, 102 W 3rd; Sterling Courthouse, 101 E 3rd St ; Sterling Rock Falls Family YMCA, 2505 Ave E; Whiteside Area Career Center, 1608 5th Ave E
Sauk Valley Community College, 173 IL-2
OUR VISION: ConnectWhiteside.org envisions deployment and use of robust, affordable broadband infrastructure that improves the quality of life and competitiveness of every resident, business, and organization in Whiteside County.
Whiteside County is participating in the Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Planning Program, the first step in bringing fiber broadband connectivity to the county’s rural communities.