||URBANA – The Illinois Broadband Lab, a collaboration between the Illinois Office of Broadband and University of Illinois System, invites residents and local organizations in southern Illinois to a series of in-person listening sessions at Shawnee College on March 1 and SIU Carbondale on March 2. The events will give the public a forum for asking questions and providing input about the region’s most urgent needs and priorities related to high-speed internet connectivity and access. People also can participate in information sessions and listening sessions by going to https://broadband.uillinois.edu/.
The community events are one way that Illinois residents can contribute to the state’s plan to invest federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) and Digital Equity (DE) programs.
“With funding coming from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we have a generational opportunity to close the digital divide in Illinois,” said Matt Schmit, director of the Illinois Office of Broadband. “But we need input from the people and organizations that are most directly impacted by existing challenges. Local residents know better than anyone what the needs are, where the gaps are, and how internet access, computing devices, and related skills can impact their day-to-day lives.”
To ensure that federal BEAD and digital equity funding addresses demonstrated barriers and needs – for instance, the 285,000-plus Illinois households without physical access to basic internet service and the over 1.1 million Illinois residents without the devices and skills to use the internet – the Illinois Broadband Lab will work with a wide range of community organizations, local governments, and broadband stakeholders to gather critical input.
In partnership with the Southern Illinois Broadband Regional Engagement for Adoption + Digital Equity (READY) team from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, the Illinois Broadband Lab will host the following in-person events in southern Illinois:
- Listening sessions with non-profits and community organizations
- Session 1: K-Atrium at Shawnee College, March 1, 2:30-3:30 p.m.
- Session 2: Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center at SIU Carbondale, March 2, 2:30-3:30 p.m.
- Listening sessions with residents
- Session 1: K-Atrium at Shawnee College, March 1, 6-7 p.m.
- Session 2: Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center at SIU Carbondale, March 2, 6-7 p.m.
Virtual options are available for internet service providers and other private-sector stakeholders to provide their input. Anyone can visit https://broadband.uillinois.edu/ or a local library to obtain a list of upcoming events, to provide feedback through surveys, or to learn more about the planning initiative, forthcoming federal investment, and the work of the Illinois Office of Broadband.
About the University of Illinois System
The University of Illinois System is a world leader in research and discovery, and the largest educational institution in the state with more than 94,800 students, about 26,000 full-time equivalent faculty and staff, and universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I System awards more than 24,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.
About the Illinois Office of Broadband
The Illinois Office of Broadband is housed within the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The office is responsible for administering the Connect Illinois Broadband Grant Program and has developed related programming – in community and regional planning, local capacity building, and digital equity and inclusion. Beyond administration of grants and programming, the office has forged various collaborations throughout Illinois, most notably creation of the Illinois Broadband Lab with the University of Illinois System and publication of a bi-weekly newsletter, Illinois Broadband Connections, with the Illinois-based Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.