CHICAGO (AP) – Thousands of residents in rural areas of Illinois will get access to high-speed Internet service for the first time, through a federal government program.

More than a quarter of the state’s rural population lacks access to high-speed Internet. Illinois has the 20th lowest rate of rural broadband availability in the country.

Nearly 16,000 residents will soon have access to affordable, robust broadband under a Federal Communications Commission program that has set aside $4.7 million in funds for Illinois.

The agency’s Connect America Fund has an overall goal of connecting 19 million rural Americans by 2020.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says “access to broadband means access to jobs and economic opportunity, in addition to better education and health care.”

© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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