Sep. 22—MORRISON, Ill., — The Whiteside County Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to bring fiber broadband access to the underserved/unserved residents, businesses and organizations in Whiteside County.
The plan, recommended to the board by the Connect Whiteside Committee, will see the deployment of approximately 1,000 miles of fiber broadband access to over 8,000 addresses and over 21,000 residents. The project is estimated to cost in excess of $70 million. Whiteside County will commit $3 million from the American Rescue Plan Act funds the county received.
"Tonight's vote is an important milestone for Whiteside County,"said Whiteside County Board Chairman James Duffy. "Bringing high-speed broadband fiber to the entire county is a big thing. It is comparable to bringing the railroad to communities in the 19th century or the interstate highway system post World War II."
Duffy said in a press release that the deployment of fiber broadband across the county will keep the county and its businesses competitive in today's global environment, it will provide residents with an upgrade to their quality of life whether its remote work, education or healthcare, and greater access to entertainment options.
"The committee worked hard on this, and I believe we have chosen the right partner, Sand Prairie, to help us deploy broadband fiber to every corner of rural Whiteside County," he said.
The county and Sand Prairie will work together to take advantage of the federal and state broadband funding currently available to accomplish the project.
"This project will solve a long-term problem, leverage local engagement to ensure strong outcomes, and position the county to compete in a new digital economy that allows more and more Illinoisans to work, live, learn and recreate wherever they chose," said Gary Camarano, Whiteside County economic development director.
The Connect Whiteside Committee consisted of 18 members, and met over a 14-week period to discuss the connectivity problem, various methods to address it, best practices from across the nation, and the results of a community survey. The committee then researched potential Internet service providers and followed up with an extensive interview process to select the ISP finalist. The result of the selection process was a unanimous vote of the committee to select local provider Sand Prairie.
"Since 1939, we have been delivering utility solutions to local underserved and unserved rural residents and communities in Northwest Illinois to enhance the quality of life," said Mike Casper, Jo-Carroll Energy president & CEO. "We look forward to working with the County to accelerate the buildout of high-speed fiber internet service to homes, businesses, and communities throughout Whiteside County."
The next steps are for the county and Sand Prairie to finalize an agreement to work together, perform necessary engineering studies and project plans, and write and submit grant applications.