broadband 052820PARK FOREST – A new state grant will expand access to high-speed internet for students and families in Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163, State Senator Patrick Joyce (D-Essex) announced Monday.

“People living in rural areas deserve reliable internet access,” Joyce said. “Especially during this pandemic, when working and learning from home has become the norm, it’s important that we expand broadband internet service so no community is left behind.”

The Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 is one of 12 organizations to receive a grant from the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity through the Illinois Connected Communities program, created to help build broadband capacity in underserved areas.

In addition to an award of up to $15,000, the 12-month program provides free expert consultation to enable each Illinois Connected Community to complete a plan for expanding broadband that identifies actions to improve internet access in the areas of community and economic development, education, civic engagement, healthcare, agriculture, and more.

The program directs $150,000 in state-funded small grants for community and local government partners to help improve access to high-speed broadband in their communities. The state grants will be matched by $150,000 in philanthropic funds.

These grants will help lay the groundwork for individual communities to play a part in Connect Illinois, a $420 million program to bring basic internet access to all communities by 2024. Connect Illinois contemplates a second round of grants later this year.