Broadband Access StockROCKFORD – State Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) congratulated the Region 1 Planning Council on winning an important grant to help expand broadband access throughout the Northern Stateline region, which includes the Rockford area.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Gov. JB Pritzker recently announced the first list of grant recipients for the Broadband Regional Engagement for Adoption + Digital Equity (READY).

“Internet access is becoming as important as telephones and electricity for many citizens, and Illinois is looking to get them connected with better speeds,” Stadelman said. “High speed internet will help many people in the Rockford area work and search for work, connect families, and help students who need access to educational information.”

The inaugural READY program is a first of its kind, with $200,000 already awarded to four regional entities to accelerate progress in eliminating the digital divide. The program is meant to fuel local efforts to increase digital equity for homeowners and citizens who lack access to high-speed internet.

“Region 1 Planning Council is grateful for the opportunity to bring partners together as a part of the Broadband READY program,” said Region 1 Planning Council Executive Director Michael Dunn, Jr. “Focusing on the elimination of the digital divide in Winnebago & Boone Counties, DCEO’s funding helps establish a regional action plan as well as funding Rockford Public Library’s launch of a Chromebook and hot-spot lending program for its patrons. The READY program will help our region take practical steps toward closing the digital divide and enhancing broadband access, adoption and use.”

The READY grantees may use funds to expand immediate broadband connectivity, conduct outreach and engagement to identify current digital inequities, and establish next steps toward creating a digital inclusion ecosystem. More information on the broadband access grants is available on the DCEO website.