Villa encourages Illinoisans to apply for broadband grants

WEST CHICAGO – In order to expand access to high-speed broadband for Illinois families, State Senator Karina Villa (D-West Chicago) is encouraging Illinoisans to apply for the second round of state broadband funding.

“From e-learning to telehealth, the COVID-19 pandemic amplified the need to expand broadband across Illinois,” Villa said. “Our lives are becoming more and more reliant on internet access, and it’s imperative that we make sure no community is left behind.”

The Office of Broadband Regional Engagement for Adoption + Digital Equity (READY) program is designed to increase access, adoption and use of high-speed internet access through the lens of digital equity and inclusion. To further these efforts across all ten economic development regions of the state, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Broadband is launching the next READY notice of funding opportunity, with another $250,000 available for grants.

The Broadband READY program is part of a comprehensive Digital Equity Package to boost broadband capacity while addressing existing broadband equity gaps. The READY program and other investments to enhance community planning and equitable implementation will complement the Connect Illinois program, a $400 million plan to deliver universal access to high-speed internet statewide.

Funding can be used to expand immediate broadband connectivity, conduct outreach and engagement to identify current digital inequities, and establish next steps forward. Its aim is to create a digital inclusion ecosystem through regional collaboration among institutions of higher education, planning councils, community and economic development organizations, schools, libraries, health care and local leaders, and other related stakeholders.

“Everyone in Illinois deserves access to the endless information available online,” Villa said. “This broadband funding is key to eliminating the digital divide across our state.”

The application deadline for the second round of READY grants is Oct. 4, 2021. Visit the Illinois Office of Broadband websitefor information on eligibility criteria or application assistance.