Jo-Carroll Energy’s broadband division, Sand Prairie, is the first 2020 recipient of a Community Connect grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and plans to use the $2 million award to deliver high-speed internet access to 420 homes.
“Expansion of fiber broadband is a much-needed development in our region,” said Mike Casper, president and CEO of the Elizabeth, Illinois, co-op. “This grant will assist our efforts to provide high-speed, reliable internet service to our co-op members.”
Sand Prairie will use the grant to build about 25 miles of overhead and underground mainline fiber-to-the-premise and another 32 miles of fiber connection drops. JCE will match 22% of the grant, nearly $460,000, to complete the $2.5 million broadband project. Construction is expected to begin later this year and be completed within two years.
Sand Prairie offers broadband service of up to 2 gigabits per second to meet the rural area’s growing needs.
“This project supports economic development in our rural service area by increasing property values, attracting new residents and providing more residents the ability to work remotely, all factors that, in the long term, support community growth, boost our community’s tax base, enhance medical practices and support our schools,” said Jesse Shekleton, JCE director of engineering and project manager for the grant application.
JCE and Sand Prairie are applying for additional grants to continue extending broadband throughout their service territory. Sand Prairie was created in 2008 to build a fiber communications network for the co-op and was the subject of a NRECA case study.
Casper sees fiber as unmatched regarding bandwidth, speed, uptime, latency and overall scalability into the future and a way to help maintain the community’s vitality.
“Fiber is a key element to keeping and drawing younger people and transforming more of the visitors to our area into residents who can bring in new businesses that heighten the quality of life for our members and communities.”
Cathy Cash is a staff writer at NRECA.