SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois is getting a major Internet boost. The state received more than $253 million from the American Rescue Plan, the White House announced Tuesday.
“As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, we know that Internet access is crucial for public health, the success of small businesses, educating our children, improving the quality of life and just so so much more,” Senator Tammy Duckworth said.
For many, the pandemic created a need for reliable Internet access, especially for students.
“We really had to get creative about how we accessed students and how students accessed their teachers, and we really did a good job getting devices out to kids to be able to connect the best we could and kind of make things up as we went,” Ryan Heavner, the superintendent of Greenview Community School District #200, said.
The superintendent said it’s even more crucial to have Internet access in rural areas where the Internet connection isn’t always reliable.
“The school districts have invested into infrastructure to be able to get technology to kids, such as those remote hotspots, where the kid can use their school Chromebook and be able to access Internet and work with their teachers and collaborate with their classmates to do the learning that they need to do when they’re not here on campus,” Heavner said.
Duckworth also emphasized the importance of ensuring rural areas have access to the Internet.
“Showing up for rural Illinois communities means making sure that every single Illinoisan has access to reliable electricity and broadband no matter their zip code,” Duckworth said.
It isn’t just schools that rely on better internet connections, so do health care providers.
During the pandemic, OSF Healthcare said people of all ages from urban to rural areas relied on telehealth services for a number of issues.
“We’re starting to really see health care, and the need for more virtual, digital health care increase because of convenience and access,” Jennifer Junis, the senior vice president of OSF On Call, the digital health division of OSF HealthCare.
OSF said it supports any means to increase Internet connectivity to work with patients and improve access in rural areas.