Broadband expansion funds improve Internet access for schools and health care providers

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois. – Illinois is getting a lot of Internet support. The state has received more than $253 million from the U.S. bailout plan, the White House announced Tuesday.

“As we’ve seen during the pandemic, we know that Internet access is critical to public health, the success of small businesses, the education of our children, the improvement of quality of life and so much more,” said Senator Tammy Duckworth.

For many, the pandemic has created a need for reliable Internet access, especially for students.

“We had to be really creative in how we approached the students and how the students approached their teachers, and we really did a good job of getting the devices to the kids so they could connect as best they could and figure things out as they went. ” said Ryan Heavner, superintendent of Greenview Community School District #200.

The superintendent said it is even more important to have internet access in rural areas where internet connections are not always reliable.

“School districts have invested in infrastructure to make technology available to kids, like remote hotspots, where a kid can use their school Chromebook and access the Internet and work with their teachers and collaborate with their classmates to learn that they have to do, when they’re not here on campus,” Heavner said.

Duckworth also emphasized the importance of ensuring that rural areas have access to the Internet.

“Showing up in rural Illinois communities means making sure every Illinoisan has access to reliable electricity and broadband regardless of their zip code,” Duckworth said.

Not only schools but also health care providers rely on a better internet connection.

During the pandemic, OSF Healthcare said people of all ages from urban to rural areas relied on telehealth services for a range of issues.

“We’re really starting to see healthcare and the need for more virtual, digital healthcare grow because of convenience and access,” Jennifer Junis, senior vice president of OSF On Call, OSF HealthCare’s digital health division.

OSF said it supports any means to increase Internet connectivity to work with patients and improve access in rural areas.

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