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Illinois Completes 55-County Broadband Project

The state's new information superhighway system includes more than 1,000 new miles of high-speed fiber-optic broadband infrastructure.

A nearly $100 million, four-year project to connect 55 counties to a high-speed broadband network has been a boon to education, public safety and the economy, Gov. Pat Quinn said during a stop Friday at Illinois State University to celebrate the project's completion.

“This is a little like building the interstate highway system when I was growing up,” Quinn said. “Now we have to have an information superhighway system.”

Overall, more than 1,000 new miles of high-speed fiber-optic broadband infrastructure was installed as part of the project, which was financed by $62 million in federal funds, $24 million from the state's Illinois Jobs Now! capital program and nearly $10 million in other university, local government and private resources.

The Central Illinois Regional Broadband Network is part of that project. It is overseen by a governing board with representatives from ISU, Bloomington, Normal and Heartland Community College.

Mark DeKeersgieter, CIRBN's executive director, said more than 100 entities with more than 250 locations are part of the CIRBN. They include school districts, higher education, municipalities and other public entities, such as libraries, as well as some for-profit businesses.

Private businesses are “probably are largest area for growth,” DeKeersgieter said. A lot of them have been “taking a wait-and-see attitude” to see if the network would get built, he said.

One that didn't wait was Bloomington-based Mavidea Technology Group, a web design and managed information technology services company.

Jake Davis, Mavidea's chief operating officer, said the company has recommended connection to CIRBN to several clients and uses the network itself.

“The faster connection means better service for our clients,” Davis said during the press conference.

One of them was Normal Mayor Chris Koos, who said the network is “another piece of making this community a growing and vibrant community. It's another win.”

Mark Daniel, the Unit 5 school district's new superintendent, said the high-speed broadband network is crucial to the district's “one-to-one” program, providing computers to individual students in certain grades.

Doug Minter, vice president of business services at Heartland Community College, said prior to CIRBN's activation, the school had a “patchwork quilt” of Internet providers. With the new network, Heartland's Internet service is 25 times faster.

“It was big for us,” he said.

©2014 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.)