Jo-Carroll Energy awarded Community Connect grant for Sand Prairie fiber internet project

Jo-Carroll Energy was awarded a $2 million Community Connect Grant by the USDA for a fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) internet project that will deliver high-speed, reliable broadband internet service to a rural area in Jo Daviess County. 

The grant, announced Monday, March 30, will be used to bring access to fiber internet to more than 400 homes in an area that encompasses a substantial portion of northern side of The Galena Territory in rural Jo Daviess County.

 “We are extremely pleased with the grant award from the USDA,” said Mike Casper, JCE president and CEO. “Expansion of fiber broadband in our rural areas is a much-needed development in our region. This grant will assist our efforts to provide high-speed, reliable internet service to our co-op members.”

Sand Prairie, JCE’s broadband division, will use the $2,053,815 in grant funds to construct 25 miles of aerial and underground mainline fiber and 32 miles of drop fiber to 420 premises. The premises are located primarily on the northern and northeastern side of Lake Galena, in either an under- or unserved area. Two network operations center (NOC) facilities that house electronics are included also.

Total proposed project expenditures are $2,512,865. Jo-Carroll Energy will fund a 22% grant match, or $459,050. Final engineering details and material procurement will begin immediately.  Construction is anticipated to begin in the third or fourth quarter of 2020. Grant recipients have three years to spend funds, but JCE plans to complete the buildout in less than two years.

Sand Prairie identifies its project areas as numbered polygons or fiber neighborhoods. The grant area has been named GT5. This area includes some locations that were previously in other fiber neighborhoods or not in a polygon. A map on the website details Sand Prairie’s fiber neighborhoods and is where members can express their interest in fiber and track progress.

All members within the grant area who had previously expressed interest in fiber will receive an email from Sand Prairie containing a customized link to sign up for service at their location.  All other members within the GT5 fiber neighborhood will be notified by other means or can go to and complete the Sign-Up step.

“The 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.

Sand Prairie offers fiber internet service packages with speeds from 25 megabits per second up to 2 gigabits per second to meet the growing needs of area residents, students and businesses.

With fiber internet service, residents of The Galena Territory will see many advancements in the areas of education, medicine, public safety and overall rural economic development, according to Shekleton.

“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,” Casper noted.

The Community Connect award is the first grant funding the cooperative has received for its FTTP project.

“We continue to explore funding options to speed progress towards the goal of bringing fiber service to all members who want it,” Shekleton said.

JCE and Sand Prairie are applying for additional grant funds for qualifying rural areas in Jo Daviess, Carroll and Whiteside counties.

In addition to the grant area, Sand Prairie currently has nine other projects throughout its service territory in the construction stages. Visit the Fiber Communities page to find your neighborhood and track progress.