Illinois is gathering input on broadband internet needs through ‘listening sessions’

The Southern

“Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Illinois will receive a minimum allocation of $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state, including providing access to the at least 228,000 Illinoisans who currently lack it,” according to the White House. 

How is your broadband internet access? The State of Illinois wants to know and area residents have several opportunities to share their experiences, needs and priorities.

A series of “listening sessions” for residents and non-profits is set for March 1 and 2 to gather input so that leaders can develop a plan to invest federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act’s Broadband Equity, Access, Deployment and Digital Equity programs.

The sessions are being hosted by the Illinois Broadband Lab, a collaboration between the Illinois Office of Broadband and the University of Illinois System. The groups are working closely with economic and educational institutions in the region, including the Southern Illinois Broadband Regional Engagement for Adoption and Digital Equity (READY) team from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Two in-person events will be held for area residents. The first will be from 6 – 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1 in the K-Atrium at Shawnee College. The second will be from 6 – 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 2 at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center at SIU.

Additionally, two sessions will be held to specifically focus on the needs of not-for-profits and community organizations. Those two sessions will be held from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. on March 1 at Shawnee and 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Dunn-Richmond Center.

Those unable to attend may participate online by visiting

Local leaders say the information gathered will be very helpful and will build upon previous surveys on broadband access in the region.

“In our survey about a year ago, the percentage of people in the region who were actually satisfied with their broadband service was quite small,” explained Gary Kinsel, research and innovation strategist with the Office of Innovation and Economic Development at SIU.

Kinsel added that places remain in Southern Illinois where broadband simply has not yet reached, putting students, businesses and organizations at a disadvantage.

“I think COVID really put that in stark relief. When we were at the point where people had to connect to virtual meetings or schools, everybody realized that you had to be connected and it brought out the truth that lack of connectivity is a real problem,” he said. “If you don’t have the ability to work with broadband delivery, you are at a significant disadvantage. I don’t know how much more critical it could be.”

The gathering of public information and perspective, Kinsel said, will help the state organize a comprehensive application to the federal government for funding to support broadband development.

“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.” 

Kinsel said the meetings at SIU and Shawnee Community College are just some of a full schedule of sessions statewide.

More information on the meetings and effort is available at

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Region: Southern,Local,City: Carbondale,Region: Carbondale

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February 27, 2023 at 03:00PM

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