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By Carmen Ensinger
Earlier this year, the City of Carrollton was one of only eight communities throughout the state chosen to receive a $15,000 grant to study the need for high-speed internet in the area.
Illinois Connected Communities is a partnership among the Illinois Office of Broadband, the Evanston-based Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, and local philanthropy. The program is designed to engage a first-year cohort of communities through best practice curriculum, expert consultation, and a state grant of up to $15,000.
Local philanthropic contributions raised to date will support more than 50 hours of free expert consultation and best-practice curriculum for each of the 8 Illinois Connected Communities. Guidance will include assisting communities to define their technology goals; measuring current levels of broadband access, adoption, and use; and seeking technical assistance and other funds to meet community needs.
By the end of the 12-month program, each Illinois Connected Community will have completed a community-driven, broadband strategic plan that articulates the community’s broadband vision and identifies an action plan for progress toward improved broadband access in the areas of community and economic development, education, civic engagement, healthcare, agriculture, and more.
Carrollton put together a committee which has been working diligently looking at internet access, or lack thereof, in not only the Carrollton area, but in the rest of the county as well.
City Treasurer Diane Hendricks, who is a member of the committee, and other committee members have been having conversations with a company called GEO Partners.
“We have a contract that was presented to us by GEO Partners to do a rapid design study which they do by reaching out to every person in the city to try to get them to do a speed test for the internet in their home,” Hendricks said. “From this, they will produce a study. To do this for the city of Carrollton, the cost will be around $6,490 and to do it county-wide it was $12,228.”
The city of Carrollton would not be responsible for anything other than the cost for the city itself.
“The people on this committee, which included people in Greenfield, Roodhouse and White Hall all agreed that better internet is needed for the whole county, not just Carrollton,” Hendricks said. “So, Greene County Economic Development has agreed to pay above and beyond whatever the cost is to have the study done for the rest of the county.”
However, Hendricks suggested that the city not sign the contract – not just yet that is.
“I think our attorney needs to look over the contract before we sign it,” she said. “I was under the impression when we started this that we would apply for the second round of the grant, which is the infrastructure grant, but I was told today that we won’t be getting that grant, but that is how it was presented to us. That grant will go to a company like Illinois Rural Electric or Frontier or whoever is willing to bring broadband to this area.”
Hendricks did say that the city needed the rest of the county to participate in the study to even have a chance to move forward.
“GEO Partners did a brief analysis of Carrollton and they found out in the study they did that the city has adequate internet service,” she said. “They said we probably wouldn’t get very far trying to develop a plan and get high speed internet here. But, if you reach out to the whole county, there is a need and so that is why we have reached out to them.”
Hendricks said she has sent out surveys to all of the schools, all of the villages and towns within the county. The surveys are also located in churches, are being sent out in water bills and other city bills, Greene County Rural Water is sending them out in their bills, FS is sending them out as is CHS.
“We are doing whatever we can to get this survey out to people to get online get all this information together,” she said. “Once we get all this info compiled, then whatever company we choose, they can do this study and then this study can be presented to a provider to try to get them to come here and bring high speed internet to not just Carrollton but the whole county.”
Hendricks said its not that the city shouldn’t sign the contract – just not now.
“I don’t think we are ready to sign a contract yet so I would suggest holding off until our attorney can go over it,” she said. “Last week we were all ready to sign this contract and move forward, but after making several phone calls and talking to different people, I don’t think we are ready and I think our attorney needs to look it over before we sign anything.”