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Broadband for a country mile: Federal funds will help close the digital divide between Sauk Valley’s rural and urban areas

August 29, 2018

WASHINGTON D.C.– Nearly 1,300 customers in rural areas in Lee, Whiteside, Bureau and Carroll counties who don’t have broadband service will be able to get it in coming years thanks to a providers auction held by the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC started the first Connect America Fund auction last month, giving out nearly $1.5 billion nationwide to incentivize providers to bring broadband and voice services to rural areas at an affordable price. The results of the auction were announced Tuesday.

“The successful conclusion of this first-of-its kind auction is great news for the residents of these rural communities, who will finally be able to share in the 21st-century digital opportunities that broadband provides,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a news release.

The qualifying locations were in areas where it made no business sense to provide the services without government subsidies. AMG Technology Investment Group LLC put in the winning bids for areas in several Illinois counties including Bureau, Carroll, Lee and Whiteside.

Bureau County will be the beneficiary of $1,654,039 in assistance that, over a 10-year period, will bring high-speed internet to 668 customers, primarily in an area just north of Princeton.

The subsidy for Whiteside County will be $974,595 to bring broadband to 384 customers, most of them in an area southwest of Morrison and another cluster southeast of I-88. In Carroll County, $878,732 will be available to help bring services to 227 locations. A large part of that area is just south of Mount Carroll with a couple of spots north of the city.

Lee County received $3,554 to help Benton Ridge Telephone Co. service six locations. That area is south of Dixon near the junction of U.S. Route 30 and Interstate 88.

The service providers are on a 6-year timeline for the infrastructure buildouts. They must complete 40 percent of their locations within the first 3 years. The buildout must increase by 20 percent in each of the remaining 3 years. The financial assistance continues for 10 years.

The auction lowered prices by creating competition between more than 100 providers. The initial price of $5 billion to cover 713,176 locations nationwide was reduced to $1.488 billion.

The FCC also is working to reduce the cost of broadband deployment by eliminating some regulatory barriers and by freeing up more spectrum for wireless broadband.

The Connect America Fund auction is part of a broader effort by the FCC to close the digital divide in rural America. The agency also is working toward the launch of a $4.53 billion Mobility Fund Phase II auction to expand 4G LTE wireless coverage throughout rural America. The Connect America Fund is providing more than $9 billion for rural broadband in areas served by large carriers. 

The FCC is funded by regulatory fees assessed to the radio, television, wire, satellite and cable industries.

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