Gov. issues order to bridge Illinois' digital divide

Gov. Blagojevich creates Broadband Deployment Council to ensure all Illinois residents have access to the Internet

SPRINGFIELD—Under executive order, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich recently announced the creation of the Broadband Deployment Council to improve high-speed Internet access for all Illinois residents.

According to a 2004 Pew Research report, only 10 percent of rural Americans have high-speed Internet access in their homes, about one-third the rate of non-rural Americans.

“In today’s society, the Internet plays a role in just about every aspect of our lives —from education, to communication, to business development,” Blagojevich said. “Expanding access to the Internet goes hand in hand with our efforts to improve opportunities for families and businesses throughout Illinois.”

Expanding access to critical technology and its related benefits has been a priority of the Blagojevich administration. The executive order comes as the latest action in a widespread effort to bring technology into the heart of Illinois communities. Other key efforts include the grassroots program known as “Eliminate the Digital Divide,” which provides funding to local community technology centers in low-income communities to provide technology skills training and access to computers and the Internet.

Since technology literacy today is a necessity to competing for and succeeding in well-paying jobs, this program teaches essential skills to people who often lack access to important educational opportunities that will help prepare them for a 21st Century job.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn will serve as Chairman of the Broadband Deployment Council. Quinn has worked to help bridge the digital divide through various Governor’s Rural Affairs Council initiatives, and most recently, by providing two $20,000 Wireless Main Street grants to the communities of Mt. Vernon and Quincy.

“Technology is crucial to every community throughout the state,” Quinn said. “It improves public safety, education and improves economic development. Illinois cannot afford to leave any community or neighborhood behind when it comes to connecting businesses and citizens to the Internet.”

The state of Illinois has historically been a leader in computer technology and applications, including University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s role in the development of the Internet and the World Wide Web.

The Broadband Deployment Council will also look for innovative ways for state agencies to work together to encourage and help coordinate the spread of universal, competitive and affordable telecommunications services.

Representatives from eight state agencies dealing with commerce, transportation, finance and economic development will join Quinn on the council. Two education boards will also be represented.

In addition, Blagojevich is appointing 16 individuals who will provide consumer and business perspectives from both under-served urban areas, as well as rural communities. The 16 individuals include the following:

Rep. Connie Howard, 34th Representative District

Ald. Manny Flores, City of Chicago, First Ward

Melville Nickerson, Citizens’ Utility Board

Jason Bird, City of Princeton, Illinois Municipal Electric Association

Deborah Seale, SIU Telehealth Networks and Programs, SIU School of Medicine

Terry Sullivan, TECH 2006

Jody Johnson, Southernmost Illinois Regional e-Partners, University of Illinois Extension

Herb Kuryliw, Illinois Municipal Broadband Communications Association, Northern Illinois University

Annie Collins, Fiber for Our Future

Michael Dickson, Western Illinois University

Donna McCann, Illinois Association of Regional Councils

Rev. Bill Samuels, Ministerial Alliance Against the Digital Divide

Ed Feser, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Greg Robertson, Globalcom, Inc.

Philip Wood, Verizon

Kirk Brannoch, SBC

The Council will make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding telecommunications initiatives that require legislative approval, including the creation of a state entity that handles distribution of funds for private and public telecommunications projects.

The council will meet at least quarterly throughout the year, and is effective immediately.

From the Nov. 2-8, 2005, issue

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