FCC Awards 1.5 Million to Illinois Broadband Carriers for Lifeline Pilot Program

“Better Broadband, Better Lifeline” Program Will Provide Discounted Service, Training and Internet Devices to Low-Income Illinois Residents

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, December 19, 2012 – Residents in 35 rural Illinois counties are set to receive $1.5 million in discounted internet service, digital literacy training, and low-cost internet devices as part of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Broadband Lifeline Adoption Pilot Program Competition, the FCC today announced.
Broadband Illinois and its partners are one of 14 “high-quality pilot projects” selected to collect data on the effects of providing discounted internet service. The pilot program will target individuals that need connectivity the most: the 37 percent of Illinoisans who do not use broadband in their homes.
The FCC is transitioning from providing low-cost phone service to enabling low-cost internet connections. Research is needed on how to structure such a national broadband program. Each selected pilot project will provide “critical data and rigorous analysis regarding how Lifeline can effectively and efficiently increase broadband adoption and retention among low-income consumers,” the FCC said.
“Robust, affordable broadband has become essential to access jobs, education, and economic opportunity,” the said the FCC. “More than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies today require online job applications. And students with broadband at home have a 7 percent higher graduate rate. But low-income households adopt broadband at much lower rates than the average household: Fewer than 36 percent of families with incomes less than $25,000 subscribe to broadband at home, compared to nearly 92 percent of families with incomes over $75,000.”  
“All three of the impediments to getting Americans online -- cost, relevance, and digital literacy -- are addressed by this pilot program," said Drew Clark, Executive Director of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, also known as Broadband Illinois.

"By convening seven broadband providers, two world-class training entities, and the marketing muscle of our on-the-ground regional eTeams, Broadband Illinois has the opportunity to show how Better Broadband can lead to Better Lives in the 35 Western and Southern Illinois counties covered by this pilot," said Clark.
Broadband Illinois partnered with seven eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs), Connected Living and the Citizens Utility Board to submit the “Better Broadband, Better Lifeline” proposal. Additionally, Broadband Illinois has partnered with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Funds awarded through DCEO and the SBA will support computer purchases and broadband training. Coupled with the FCC's $1.5 million in funds for internet connectivity, the program will address key impediments to getting Americans online.
In addition to getting people online, the project will focus on studying the adoption rates of households provided with digital literacy training. Participating ETCs will track usage and retention of service during the 12-month pilot to determine if training helps subscribers overcome adoption hurdles such as “relevance” or “privacy concerns.” To test the impact of the training, one group of subscribers will be offered a flat rate $30 subsidy for 12 months and receive digital literacy training. Another group will receive only the training and not the subsidy.
Eligible Telecommunications Carriers include: Adams Telephone Cooperative, Cass Telephone Company, Harrisonville Telephone Company, Madison Telephone Company, Mid Century Telephone Cooperative, Shawnee Telephone Company, and Wabash Telephone Cooperative. One-on-one digital literacy training and outreach will be provided by Broadband Illinois, Connected Living and Citizens Utility Board.
About: Partnership for a Connected Illinois, also known by its Broadband Illinois website, is a non-profit entity, based in Springfield, working in partnership with private and public entitles in the State of Illinois.  Broadband Illinois collects data about high-speed internet (broadband) availability and works with local communities to make broadband available throughout the state. The organization works to improve the adoption and enhance the impact of broadband in Illinois.  Learn more at www.broadbandillinois.org and connect with us at www.facebook.com/broadbandillinois
For media inquiries, contact Roxana Ryan at 217-690-8006

For the FCC's press release, click here

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