News from the ITA

October 19, 2020


Pritzker Announces Second Round of Connect Illinois to Open November 1

Governor JB Pritzker announced the state would begin accepting applications from broadband providers for the second round of the Connect Illinois grant program November 1. Pritzker made the announcement in Staunton at Madison Communications, one of 18 broadband providers that won a Connect Illinois grant award in the first round. The $4.2 million grant to Madison Communications will serve more than 9,200 households, businesses, farms, and anchor institutions in Macoupin and Madison Counties.

Overall, the Office of Broadband awarded 28 Connect Illinois grants in Round 1 to 18 providers totaling $50 million in state grant funding in Round 1. The broadband companies receiving awards pledged to allocate an additional $65 million in matching funds to bring the total investment generated in Round 1 to $115 million. Eleven (11) ITA member companies received grants totaling $31 million of the $50 million available in Round 1.

Connect Illinois is a $400 million, multi-year grant program with a goal of providing ubiquitous broadband access for homes, businesses, and community anchor institutions. The General Assembly approved funding for the Connect Illinois broadband grant program as part of the capital infrastructure program they approved last year.

As in Round 1, $50 million in state grant awards will be available to broadband providers in Round 2. The Round 2 Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) released today also provides for a $5 million maximum grant, while encouraging broadband providers to submit multiple grant applications. The deadline to submit a grant application is March 1, 2021. All awarded grant project work must be completed by June 30, 2024.

Round 2 grant applications can be made in one of four categories:

  • Broadband Access for Illinois homes, businesses, and community anchor institutions in unserved or underserved areas;

  • Broadband Equity for projects with demonstrable need based upon project economics or residential socioeconomic factors, such as poverty, unemployment, or broadband adoption rates;

  • Broadband Innovation for economic development and related applications; or

  • Urban Broadband for access, equity and/or innovation in qualified Illinois cities or metropolitan areas of 75,000 residents or more.

Broadband Access grants are made available to improve access in unserved and underserved areas of the state. An unserved area is an area of Illinois in which households, businesses, or community anchor institutions lack access to wireline broadband service of at least 25/3 Mbps. An underserved area is an area of Illinois in which households, businesses, or community anchor institutions have wireline broadband access of at least 25/3 Mbps but less than 100/20 Mbps.

Broadband Access, Broadband Innovation, and Urban Broadband projects require a nonstate match of at least 50 percent of eligible project costs. Broadband Equity projects do not require a nonstate match of at least 50 percent of eligible project costs, but any application seeking a grant in excess of 50 percent of eligible project costs must clearly demonstrate need for merit-review consideration. For all applications, the merit-review scoring process will award points to applications that leverage matching funds totaling 55% or more of total eligible project costs.

Applications that expect to leverage federal funding for a portion of the required nonstate match may be considered, in part, on the basis of that federal support. For instance, Connect Illinois applications leveraging federal Rural Development Opportunity Fund dollars may be expected to combine state and federal support for accelerated project deployment schedule, increased project area, and/or increased nonstate match requirement. The resulting Connect Illinois “Fedcelerator” federal broadband accelerator framework and related requirements will be available at:                  

The Office of Broadband within the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity oversees the Connect Illinois Broadband Grant program.

Connect Illinois Round 2 Announcement Press Release

Connect Illinois website

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Illinois Telecommunications Association

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 (217) 572-1262