North Central eTeam focuses on economic development
The North Central eTeam
continues to convene and collaborate with stakeholders in their ten-county region. On April 12, economic development professionals, local government, and broadband carriers met in Peoria to discuss the latest broadband developments.
Each provider made a presentation on needs and successes in their coverage areas. A significant need for many small, local providers in the North Central region is access to affordable bandwidth. Parts of the region were not included in BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunity Program) awards and carriers are struggling to bridge this gap. While the region does have two "urban hubs" Bloomington-Normal and Peoria, a large portion of the region is rural and agriculture-based.
Kathie Brown, University of Illinois Extension educator, was a key leader in forming the North Central group.
“We know the positive impact of broadband in our communities, schools, hospitals, and economy,” Brown said. “This infrastructure is essential and we need to continue learning how to boost access to technology.”
John Whalen, regional manager for the Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity in the North Central region, has been working with an economic development group based along the I-39 Corridor between Bloomington-Normal and LaSalle-Peru. A main focus for this group is broadband.
“We’re trying to identify and leverage critical infrastructure that’s already in this area,” said Whalen. “Internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s essential for business and residential quality of life.”