The Whiteside County Board of Directors has unanimously approved a multi-million dollar commitment to Sand Prairie, a service of Jo-Carroll Energy, to provide fiber optic internet access underserved and unserved areas.

By a 23-0 vote at its September meeting, the Whiteside County Board approved a plan to bring reliable fiber broadband access to the underserved and unserved residents, businesses, and organizations of the county. The plan, recommended to the Board by the Connect Whiteside Committee, calls for the equitable deployment of approximately 1,000 miles of fiber broadband access to more than 8,000 addresses and 21,000 residents. Whiteside County will commit $3 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the county received to the project which is estimated to cost more than $70 million

In a press release, Whiteside County Board Chair James Duffy said. “Bringing high-speed broadband fiber to the entire county is a big thing. It is comparable to bringing the railroad to communities in the nineteenth century or the Interstate Highway System post-World War II.

“The deployment of fiber broadband across the county will keep the county and its businesses competitive in today’s global environment, it will provide residents with an upgrade to their quality of life, whether it’s remote work, education or healthcare, and greater access to entertainment options,” Duffy state. “The committee worked hard on this, and I believe we have chosen the right partner, Sand Prairie, to help us deploy broadband fiber to every corner of rural Whiteside County.”

This project will solve a long-term problem, leverage local engagement to ensure strong outcomes, and position the county to compete in a new digital economy that allows more and more Illinoisans to work, live, learn and recreate wherever they chose, according to Gary Camarano, Whiteside County economic development director.

The Connect Whiteside Committee, made up of 18 members, was formed to discuss the lack of access to reliable, affordable broadband, methods to address it, best practices from across the nation and the results of a community survey. After researching potential Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and conducting an extensive interview process, the committee unanimously voted to recommend Sand Prairie, a local provider, in its proposed plan to the county board.

“Since 1939, we have been delivering utility solutions to local underserved and unserved rural residents and communities in Northwest Illinois to enhance the quality of life,” said Mike Casper, Jo-Carroll Energy president and CEO. “We look forward to working with the county to accelerate the buildout of high-speed fiber internet service to homes, businesses, and communities throughout Whiteside County. Casper adds, “We will work together to take advantage of the historic federal and state broadband funding currently available to accomplish the project.”

Whiteside County and Sand Prairie will finalize an agreement to work together, perform necessary engineering studies and project plans and write and submit grant applications. “The process will require close cooperation between the two parties to accomplish the deployment of 1,000 miles of fiber,” Casper stated.

The estimated timeline for the project is five years. “This will definitely be worth it – for the improved quality of life and competitiveness it will bring to the county, said Camarano “This is a game changer for the county.”

In addition to Whiteside County, Sand Prairie currently has several other projects in progress throughout its service territory in the construction phase. Visit the Fiber Communities page to find your neighborhood and track progress.