Broadband could be coming to rural Edgar County… if you act fast


Life in rural Edgar County comes with plenty of perks, but consistent access to high-speed internet is rarely one of them. As of Thursday, June 13, the State of Illinois is one step closer to changing that.

A press release from the Illinois Office of Broadband (IOB) announced that the next phase of the state’s plan to bring reliable, high-speed internet, defined as internet with minimum speeds of 100 megabytes per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload, to all Illinoisans by 2030 was approved by the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA).

With the approval, the selection of sub-grantees, internet providers who will expand into unserved or underserved areas, is expected to begin shortly.

“This milestone brings Illinois one step closer to formally kicking off its sub-grantee selection process, anticipated to begin late this summer or early fall,” the press release reads.

With the announcement, the IOB has opened the door for internet providers to pre-register for the program, which will assign grant funds to providers awarded a contract in a qualifying area.

“Prospective applicants must demonstrate their financial, technical, and managerial capabilities,” the IOB press release explains. “The pre-qualification process is an opportunity to meet non-project-specific requirements prior to the formal application window.”

Across the state, providers who apply could receive a share of more than $1 billion in funding to pull from as they extend the reach of their coverage into rural farmland normally limited to satellite internet. The funding stems from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program – part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021. Illinois, Oregon and Puerto Rico all submitted proposals for plans to use federal funding to expand high-speed internet access in December 2023. Each proposal was approved earlier this month.

The BEAD program attempts to bridge the internet connectivity gap between urban and rural residents across the country – a gap worsened with each new push into remote healthcare, employment and more.

“In the 21st century, a reliable internet connection is a necessity that facilitates access to jobs, healthcare and education,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in a recent press release.

It is also a quality of life issue – faster internet connects friends and families over vast distances and provides consistent access to information and entertainment.

In Edgar County, several swathes of land have been marked as “proposed project area units,” or PAUs. PAUs are the broadband access deserts where high-speed service providers who receive grant funding will expand their coverage.

The eastern and southeastern quadrants of the county are currently marked with the most PAUs.

Terry Sullivan, a member of the Illinois Broadband Lab’s Southeast Regional READY Team and a Prairie Press contributor, hopes local residents will utilize the map. According to Sullivan, the best way to increase the probability of bringing high-speed, broadband access to PAUs in Edgar County is to contact nearby providers and encourage them to apply for local projects.

“It is important for communities to be involved and help shape their own future.  Communities hoping to receive improved broadband service should reach out to potential internet service providers who may be considering applying for funding to serve your locations,” he explained.

“Many providers are already preparing but there are still some not fully aware or needing support before applying,” Sullivan added. “Vendor applications will be reviewed and assigned points for local support. This can be through letters of support, community meetings, in-kind support or direct fund contributions. You have a chance to help your own community.”

For Sullivan, an Edgar County resident, expanding access to faster, more reliable internet service is a way to improve the overall welfare of the rural region he calls home. He noted securing broadband connections will require action.

“The southeast region has a large percentage of unserved and underserved locations, but we won't receive funding if we're not proactive,” he said.

To learn more about the BEAD program and effective ways to bring broadband internet closer to home, contact Sullivan by email at

A full map of PAUs in Edgar County and throughout the state can be found here. Simply select the second tab on the top left, “Grant Eligibility,” then check the Connect Illinois Grant Eligibility box in the left window, then add a check at the bottom of the windows for "Proposed Project Area (PAU)."

Broadband, Edgar County, BEAD