Broadband for All


LEE COUNTY — How many times have you sat in front of your home computer and it seems to literally take forever for your page to open? 

Or, you’re trying to watch your favorite TV program only to have it buffer right at a good part and the little circle in the middle of the screen goes round and round. 

Well now you have the chance to let your opinions count. The Broadband for All initiative spearheaded by members of the Ogle County Board and in cooperation with neighboring counties of Boone, Lee, Putman, Troy City, and Winnebago have put together a survey that asked questions specifically to where you live. For example, in the city, the choices will be a little different than if you live in a rural farming area. 

You have until July 23 to participate and the website address and QR reader will be available at the end of this article. 

Representatives involved are strongly encouraging everyone to take it. 

“This survey was developed to help gather data to better understand where there is already broadband, is it high speed, effective, and where is it most needed,” explained Lee County City Administrator Wendy Ryerson. “Some people living out in the country away from their adjacent town or city currently don’t have the opportunity for internet. During COVID, we all became critically aware of how important broadband is especially for the school children and their work from home parents.” 

This vision first began after realizing that due to COVID shutdowns there wasn’t enough service for kids, and visits by home health care providers were lacking. Ogle County leaders learned a lot.  So, in December of 2021, a grant was written to become a co-hort of the Accelerated Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Program. This program is designed to help communities to build inclusive broadband teams, determine acceptable community roles, set visions, and develop provider partners.  ARPA funds of $1.6 million from state and federal covid assistance went a long way in determining how to fix the internet, who has it, and how can the board best help. They also looked into what is called Dark Fiber in the county to make sure there is a backup plan. Dark Fiber, which is also known as unlit or black fiber, is unused optical fiber that has been laid. It’s usually used in network communications. It’s known to be dark as no light pulses are being transmitted through it. In normal fiber cables, light pulses send information to the useable sources. 

“There is an abundance of dark cable here and all across the U.S. that needs to be utilized,” said Patricia Nordman Ogle County Vice Chairman and head of the Broadband for All program. “We needed to make sure that in the event the main line gets damaged we have another so we don’t miss 911 emergency calls.” 

Another important part that will go a long way for the future success of the program is what is called ‘Middle Mile’. It is a startup term. In the industry the more common expression is local distribution. According to program team member Don Griffin there is a lot of moving parts. “The objective would be to eventually interconnect all line fiber that gets contractors and vendors involved to make it reliable and more affordable for all,” he said. 

Currently, Nordman, along with representatives from the aforementioned counties are in week 9 of a 12 week webinar based training being held every Thursday morning from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., where speakers from around the world cover all aspects of broadband. 

“During this intensive instruction there has been a lot of brainstorming on how best to put this survey and possible future ones together,” added Nordman.

Last year, there were over 244 applicants for a grant provided by the National Telecommunications Information Administration. This group from the surrounding counties finished in the top 14 and would have been one of the recipients if more money would have been available. The administration provided valuable feedback and Nordman feels confident of future grant awards. 

“We will have a large amount of people served through public and private partnerships which bodes well for us,” she said. “That is the ultimate goal of Broadband for All.” 

To take part in the survey, please go to https://go.aces.illinois.edu/2022BroadbandForAllSurvey or click the QR Code above.

Instructions for completing this survey: Complete the survey in one sitting and in one location - either at your home or work. If you complete the survey at your home, you may take it again at your work (or vice-versa). Do not use a cell phone to take the survey unless it is the only connection you have to the Internet. 

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