The survey is open until March 31 and can be taken online at bloomingtonil.gov, normalil.gov and mcleancountyil.gov.
Copies of the research papers are also available at many libraries in McLean County, McIntyre said.
The goal is to map weak Internet areas that can help secure future state and federal funding to improve Internet infrastructure, the chairman said.
“This (survey) is very important, it helps to determine the amount of money we can get in the future,” said McIntyre.
Brian Dirks, president of the McLean County Farm Bureau, explained the benefits of high-speed Internet for rural communities.
“Technology is a very important tool in today’s farming to get information about markets, weather, and precision agriculture equipment,” said Dirks.
Lesson: Illinois broadband investment will help address ‘digital divide,’ ‘pay for it’
He said internet access while farmers are in the field is critical to success.
“Sometimes you see a tractor with five monitors … because we apply fertilizer at certain rates, which requires expertise,” Dirks said. “We plant in certain areas. We must always maintain them.”
Anthony Grant, McLean County’s assistant administrator, said they will use the data collected to try to get federal grant funds through Connect Illinois – a statewide initiative aimed at expanding broadband access as part of Gov. JB Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois plan.
However, Grant said the installation and implementation of high-speed Internet infrastructure is in the hands of private Internet providers.
“Internet providers are going to drive this,” Grant said. “It will be a private sector campaign.”
Regarding the details of the study, Grant said “they will identify projects that make sense with private partnerships that we can establish regionally (in theory), and then we will continue to apply for any funding that will be available. .”
Grant said in November 2022 the board acknowledged that “Internet service in rural areas is a problem.”
He said he learned about the opportunity to work with local organizations such as the Illinois Broadband Lab and the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society to work to improve broadband access in McLean County. The Illinois Soybean Association is helping fund the project, which Grant said he expects will take about 18 weeks, from surveys to identifying projects and negotiating funding.
Hundreds fill the Kiwanis pancake breakfast in Bloomington