Broadband Illinois Submits Innovative Funding Request to Federal Communications Commission

Farmer using laptop SPRINGFIELD, IL -- July 9, 2012.  Low-income Illinois residents in 35 rural counties could receive $2 million in funding for refurbished computers, digital literacy training and subsidized internet service as a result of an application filed by the Partnership for a Connected Illinois to a new Federal Communications Commission broadband adoption pilot program.

The 18-month FCC pilot program will study the effect of discounted training, service and low-cost computers among low-income Americans and lay the foundation for future funding for broadband service, including the Broadband Lifeline program.  One key reason to transition the Universal Service Fund (for telephone service) into a Universal Broadband Fund (for internet connectivity) is to eliminate the digital divide between the connected and the disconnected. Up to $25 million will be allocated by the FCC to support projects providing data about broadband adoption and guiding long-term efforts to increase connectivity among low-income Americans.

"This collaboration will establish a means for low-income residents to connect, learn and empower themselves and their communities by embracing 21st century technologies," said Drew Clark, Executive Director of Partnership for a Connected Illinois. "We look forward to working with Eligible Telecommunications Carriers and partners to help ensure all Illinoisans have Better Broadband and Better Lives." 

The Partnership for a Connected Illinois' application was submitted on July 2 in conjunction  with seven Eligible Telecommunications Carriers: Adams Telephone Cooperative, Cass Telephone Company, Harrisonville Telephone Company, Madison Telephone Company, Mid Century Telephone Cooperative, Shawnee Telephone Company, and Wabash Telephone Cooperative.  If successful, the program will meet the needs of 35 rural Illinois counties by administering one-on-one computer training sessions for new users and leading an outreach effort to sign up new users. The Partnership for a Connected Illinois will fund the cost of the digital literacy training and a portion of the refurbished equipment. 

Application Highlights: 

  • The proposal aims to close the gap between the overall Illinois' adoption rate (63 percent) and the adoption rate for low-income residents (35 percent). 
  • It is anticipated that this project may serve more than 3,700 Illinois households. 
  • The seven carriers in this collaboration serve approximately 111,000 occupied households. Based upon census data, approximately 13,000 occupied households qualify as low-income.
  • Each ETC will offer a $40 monthly discount for twelve months. 
  • Connected Living, a social impact company that provides technology, programming, and people to get the digitally underserved online will deliver one-on-one, personalized digital literacy training at anchor institutions such as park districts, senior centers and churches in each service area. Connected Living will also hire and utilize local trainers, helping build local economies in each area. 
  • Citizen's Utility Board, Illinois' premier watchdog organization for individuals, journalists, and decision makers seeking reliable information about telecommunications and energy-related issues,  will launch a consumer-education campaign around broadband issues in rural Illinois. 
  • The project will focus on studying one main variable- how digital literacy training impacts adoption. Illinois has a unique opportunity to serve as a testbed for the national initiative. 

To view the full proposal, click here to download a PDF

Contact Lacey Buss or Anne Madonia with questions about the FCC Broadband Lifeline Pilot. 

Tags: Adams, Cass Communications, Citizens Utility Board, Connected Living, ETC, FCC, Harrisonville, Lifeline, Madison Communications, Midcentury, Shawnee Telephone Company, Wabash Telephone Cooperative

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