Jo-Carroll Energy has announced its intentions to bring high-speed fiber internet to large portions of East Dubuque and Galena following its receiving of a $14 million grant.
The money from the U.S Department of Agriculture will be used to construct broadband infrastructure to rural areas in western Jo Daviess County. The grant is part of the federal ReConnect program, which aims to expand the availability of broadband internet options throughout rural communities.
A press release from Jo Carroll Energy states that the grant money will cover the cost of infrastructure installation for 250 square miles of land. The communities now planned for construction include rural communities surrounding East Dubuque and Galena, along with large portions of land surrounding Elizabeth.
Construction for the selected areas is not anticipated to begin until the summer of 2021.
Joe Casper, President and CEO of Jo-Carroll Energy, said the grant will largely assist the farming communities of Jo Daviess County, which struggle most with gaining access to internet service providers.
“With rural high-speed broadband, our farming community can, more broadly, utilize advanced technologies to improve efficiencies,” Casper said. “Our commercial and industrial members will be on a level playing field with their urban and global competitors.”
Sand Prairie Wireless, the nonprofit internet service provider division of Jo-Carroll Energy, first began installing fiber internet infrastructure in 2016. Since then, the company has brought fiber internet to communities including Elizabeth and portions of Galena.
In April, the company had 2,300 customers, with intentions of further expanding to an additional 420 homes through a $2 million federal grant.
Scott Toot, chair of the Jo Daviess County Board, said he has experienced first-hand the experience of being a rural resident suddenly given access to high-speed internet.
“It’s like going from a Model-T to a Lamborghini,” Toot said. “Living in Jo Daviess County, it’s something that we didn’t have before, but it’s been great to have.”
Along with the convenience of having faster internet for residents, Toot said the expansion of fiber infrastructure throughout the county will help attract more businesses to the county, which in turn could create jobs.
“It’s going to open the door for businesses that need internet like this,” Toot said. “The more fiber the county has, the better position we are in.”
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