Illinois is set to receive more than $253 million in federal funds that government officials say will further address broadband equity, access and affordability throughout the state.
“What we’ve seen happen, especially with the pandemic, is that it’s become very apparent to everybody that the internet is not a luxury anymore; it’s a necessity,” said Nicole Marwell, associate professor at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago.
She is also co-principal investigator of the Internet Equity Initiative at UChicago’s Data Science Institute.
The announcement was made Tuesday in a press conference hosted by the White House. The funding would help develop broadband infrastructure in unserved areas, such as in rural parts of Illinois.
About 200,000 households in Chicago are still not connected to the internet, according to Marwell, also adding that it’s not just a lack of infrastructure that leads to a household not being connected to the internet.
“Those issues of digital inclusion and affordability are the ones that we see being much more important in an urban area like the city of Chicago,” Marwell said.
Researchers with the Internet Equity Initiative at UChicago’s Data Science Institute analyzed data on internet connectivity in the city and found disparities, especially in communities on the South and West sides.
“You take some neighborhoods in the South and West side like Englewood, West Englewood or Fuller Park, and these have rates of internet connectivity among their households that are almost 30% — 30 points difference from the most connected neighborhoods like Lincoln Park or Lakeview,” Marwell said.