Here we are talking about More Than 250000 Underserved Lake County Residents Will Get Faster Internet. The Federal Communications Commission has determined that the internet services available to more than 250,000 Lake County residents are “underserved,” which has caught the attention of board members early in the new term.
When the COVID-19 crisis began in 2020, District 15 representative Jennifer Clark, D-Libertyville, first observed what she calls a “widespread lack of access to high-speed internet in our community,” as many of her Lake County-based students at Carthage College struggled to complete assignments and attend remote instruction due to internet capabilities that did not correspond with software.
Clark will now serve as the chairman of the County Board’s Special Committee on Broadband, which was established to examine Lake County’s current internet speeds and make plans for how the county can assist in enhancing residents’ access to, affordability of, and capacity for using the internet in the ensuing decades.
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If we accomplish this aim, Lake County will be equipped with a strong technology infrastructure for the ensuing 30 years, according to Clark. This is the intended outcome, which will enable us to be productive, and competitive, and enable residents to prosper.
Nearly every municipality and many unincorporated areas of Lake County, from parts of Antioch in the northwest to Beach Park in the northeast, then down to southern areas in Hawthorn Woods, Lake Forest, and other towns, are underserved or even unserved, according to a map presented Friday by the Lake County Geographic Information System/Mapping Division.
The map indicates that there are an estimated 262,004 people who are underserved in more than 104,000 households and businesses, and there are more than 4,000 people who are unserved in more than 1,500 households and enterprises. Underserved connections are those with coverage under 100/20 megabits per second, while unserved connections have coverage under 25/3 megabits per second, according to FCC requirements.
The availability of high-speed internet for county residents has also been a recent concern for the committee’s vice chair, District 7 representative Carissa Casbon, a Democrat from Gurnee.
Carbon begged the County Board to assist a group of residents from the Warren Township neighborhood of Hunt Club Farms who were unable to get high-speed internet access without paying internet service provider Comcast an estimated $400,000 to set up service during a meeting of the Financial & Administrative Committee in September.
Despite having sympathy for the community’s issues, committee members concluded that they lacked the necessary power to force a link to the development into the new, 10-year franchise deal that was up for approval.
According to Casbon, the situation in the subdivision encouraged her to learn more about the coverage provided by internet service providers and how many more places than she had previously thought lacked access to high-speed internet.
On Friday, Clark hinted that the County Board would need to spend money on accurate research and developing a long-term high-speed internet plan. She also said she believed that using some of the American Rescue Plan Act funding would be essential to guarantee the county’s eligibility for grants that could be used to help make significant investments.
The federal government has also given more attention to the quality and accessibility of high-speed internet. As a result, it passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in 2021 and set aside $65 billion to spend on boosting high-speed internet access across the nation, including in Illinois.
To take advantage of all these other funding options, Clark stated, “We will have to spend money.” We didn’t want to overwhelm everyone today, therefore there are more grant opportunities (than in the presentation).
It initially seems as though the commission and other County Board members have the necessary will. The committee decided to ask for proposals for consultants to help with Lake County’s broadband, and they will meet again in early February. The group’s work, according to County Board Chair Sandy Hart, is “vital,” and she has faith in the staff and committee to plan improvements since “the passion is there for this.”
District 9 representative Mary Ross Cunningham, a Democrat from Waukegan, complimented Clark and Casbon for encouraging the board to take aggressive measures to enhance high-speed internet access throughout the county when they became aware of issues. Cunningham remarked, “You’ve got it going for Lake County, and I applaud you for that. I’ll support you.”
This spring, Casbon plans to report the results of her research on the state of internet accessibility and the resources for connectivity available to residents of Lake County and her district. Republican members of the committee are Adam Schlick of Wauconda from District 2 and Kevin Hunter of Ingleside from District 5.
When Schlick questioned possible financing sources for the consulting services, assistant county administrator Matt Meyers said that staff had discovered they may make use of some money allotted under the American Rescue Plan Act.
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Esiah Campos of Round Lake Beach, Gina Roberts of Beach Park, and Angelo Kyle of North Chicago are additional Democrats on the committee. As the uncle of four nieces, Campos noted, “Our schools and our children are privileged to have high-speed internet.” “But many of the members in my district’s children do not,” the speaker said.
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