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Mercer County Wins Grant to Increase Broadband Access

Mercer County Better Together

Mercer County has received a $15,000 grant to expand broadband access. The award comes from Illinois Connected Communities program. 

Kyle McEwen is the Executive Director of Mercer County Better Together, the non-profit responsible for administering the grant. He says the money will be spent on collecting data, identifying gaps in broadband access, and improving coverage. 

"We're positioning ourselves much better for the future if we can provide that strong broadband connectivity," McEwen said. "And the areas that do that are going to be able to emerge from this COVID era a whole lot stronger." 

While the project is in its data-collecting stage, McEwen says it may take some time to develop a strategy for increasing coverage county-wide. 

"Strong, reliable, viable broadband access, utilization, and adoption is a large component of having a viable economy... If we're going to stand up for Mercer County and work to improve its vitality, broadband is a key component of that." 

Mercer County Better Together has spent the past year developing what McEwen calls "The Fiber Hub Concept." It will provide at least one accessible location for broadband in each of Mercer County's 15 townships. He says the goal is to give Mercer County families a solid broadband option by the project's end.

Marianna Bacallao is WVIK Quad Cities NPR's 2020-2021 Fellowship Host/Reporter. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Mercer University's Center for Collaborative Journalism and served as Editor-in-Chief for the student newspaper, The Cluster.