Connecting Southern Illinois with Opportunities Since 2006

The twenty southernmost counties of Illinois have been focused on broadband as an economic development tool since 2006. ConnectSI, a foundation dedicated to fueling these rural economies through broadband, agriculture, education, and healthcare initiatives, partnered with Broadband Illinois and now serves as the Southern eTeam.

The collaborative efforts of ConnectSI, Man-Tra-Con (a workforce development organization), and Southern Illinois University have resulted in a measurable increase in broadband adoption, access, and use throughout the region.

 “In mid 2006, we had a 12% penetration rate (households that purchased broadband) and a 25% coverage rate,” said Steve Mitchell, network provider coordinator at ConnectSI. “We created a broadband and economic development plan with specific goals for each year, and by the end of 2011 we had a coverage rate of 70% and an adoption rate of 45%.”

ConnectSI brings together Internet providers, industry leaders, stakeholders, and businesses to determine demand and supply within each county and uses broadband data and maps to address needs. 

 A broadband request tool on ConnectSI’s website and a regional marketing effort prompted more than 3,000 residents to say “I want my broadband!” and providers are utilizing the tool to identify pools of aggravated demand.  Mt.Vernon.Net provided a list serv for all network providers in the Soutnern Illinois region, which helped to aggregate and disseminate the information for broadband requests through ConnectSI’s platform.

 “We’ve had success in almost every sector,” said Mitchell. “Right now we’re working with wireless providers to get broadband to rural wineries and remote areas with no service. We’ve also worked closely with the Shawnee Wine Trail and other tourism groups that can use broadband to bring in businesses and promote their services.”

 Mitchell said students in the region are able to utilize distance-learning classes at high schools and community colleges, a service that particularly benefits adult students who work full-time during the day and high-school seniors who are working towards advanced placement credit.  This opportunity also allows small school districts to save money by sharing teachers and resources.

ConnectSI has addressed a shortage of registered nurses (RNs) in the region though the Southern Illinois Online Nursing Initiative (SIONI). The part-time, hybrid-online associate degree program targets working nurses who want to further their education and helps graduates remain in local jobs rather than migrate to out-of-state employers.

Two providers in the region received Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding and are expanding high-speed services throughout the region. Shawnee Telephone Company now provides fiber to more than 1,000 rural homes, including the Hardin County K-12 school and the Hardin County General Hospital. Clearwave Communications is working on a middle-mile project that will connect more than 200 community anchor institutions.

Private companies like Frontier Communications have helped empower Southern Illinois through upgrading rural communities with broadband services.

 “We’ve had millions of dollars from the private sector invested in to this region,” said Mitchell. “These guys have done great job of working together to get broadband to their customers. They know that investment in adoption and education pays off.”

Tags: Clearwave, Connect SI, ConnectSI, Frontier, mantracon, newsletter, Shawnee Telephone, Southern Illinois

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2:42 PM
Sep 21, 2012
Anonymous says:

As far as I know, we've been totally neglected by the initiative in Cairo, IL. Mediacom won't lay cable here, either. If you look at the broadband maps, there is nothing green in Alexander County. Almost all in red:(

We can't stream multi-media here without it lagging/disconnecting. I pay $80+ per month for a satellite connection.

I contacted SIConnect a year or so ago. Hope you can help us:)

1:00 PM
Jun 15, 2012
Larry says:

I live in rural St. Clair county southwest of Belleville. Currently using Sprint wireless for internet and it is fairly reliable but often slow on upload and download speeds. We have Frontier land line service in our area but still on dial up. Any news on planned activity in my area?

3:24 PM
Jun 14, 2012
Dave S. says:

Rob, I had emailed a couple guys at Broadband Illinois a couple months ago about the future of broadband in SI but did not get a response. Our son and his family live on Rocky Comfort Rd, which has a Makanda, Il address (close to Blue Sky Winery if you know that area). Presently they have the Verizon card (which Verizon seems very proud of with the cost). Frontier last we heard was still dial up. Are there plans for ANY other ISPs in the near future for that area? A reliable/affordable internet service would be a HUGE benefit not only for their 2 school age children but their two small businesses. Thank you Rob for any comments or information.

2:20 PM
Jun 14, 2012
Rob Craig says:

Sorry, forgot to mention how far away I am from downtown Marion. I'm 4 miles from the old GTE central office where all the internet fiber comes together (so I'm told). For the 25th most populated IL city outside of Chicago, you might think that wired internet could be offered within 10 miles outside of downtown. Me and my neighbors need some help!

2:15 PM
Jun 14, 2012
Rob Craig says:

Living in S.E. Marion in Southern IL, I have seen Verizon (now Frontier) ever so slightly get closer to my home (now just 1 house away), and Mediacom uninterested in running cable further down the road. I pay $60 for wireless internet through which is still too slow to stream multimedia. Meanwhile the National Broadband map shows that I have access to Frontier and Mediacom - which I do not. So kudos Connect SI for what has been accomplished, but can we please not ignore the "rest" of Marion, and perhaps other larger towns in Southern IL?

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