Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently launched Connect Illinois, a statewide initiative to expand broadband access across the entire state. Connect Illinois includes $20 million for the Illinois Century Network (ICN), to upgrade and expand the broadband network for schools, refresh aged components and expand the existing network, with a focus on the K-12 community. This investment together with the creation of a new state consortium will provide all Illinois public K-12 students access to high-speed broadband at no charge.
Providing Illinois K-12 students with a world-class education requires unlimited and timely access to information and data. Access to the Internet with no bandwidth restrictions allows students to fully develop their creativity and imagination and provides students a foundation to implement applications using the latest technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality, holographics and new applications using the most advanced computer technologies, such as quantum computing. We should expect continued growth in bandwidth requirements due to exponential growth in processing power and storage, together with innovative new applications.
To prepare for this, the Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT), established a state consortium in July 2019 to purchase Internet access and broadband circuits for public school districts, providing as much Internet and broadband connectivity as required, at no charge to public school districts. ICN provides the fiber backbone for the consortium as well as security and Intranet services to the schools. Funding for the consortium is provided through Connect Illinois and the Universal Service Schools and Libraries Fund, commonly known as E-Rate.
Broadband circuits purchased by the consortium are from one of 14 ICN points of presence to the school head end site (Last Mile Circuit) and between schools in a school district (WAN Circuit). Thus, the consortium will cover the cost of both Last Mile and WAN Circuits. Security services include Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) mitigation, intrusion detection, content filtering, firewall and Security Operations Center (SOC) monitoring. The ICN also provides access to K-12 services and private, secure access to cloud services. These services are provided at no charge to the school district.
The ICN plays a key role in the consortium as the middle-mile backbone network, enabling connectivity to the public Internet and providing access to security, cloud and K-12 services.
The future of the DoIT consortium is strengthened through collaborations with Illinois higher education institutions. With ICN currently serving all Illinois public universities, the partnership between K-12 and Illinois higher education institutions is expected to grow and flourish. By removing bandwidth limitations, K-12 schools can access university applications, instruments and data, such as electron microscopes or space telescopes or even data related to research projects. Both universities and public school districts benefit from these partnerships. The strength of ICN facilitated links between K-12 and higher education will help ensure all Illinois students are best in class on the world stage.