High-speed Internet will bring opportunities to the five Southern Illinois counties served by Shawnee Telephone Co
., but 100 new jobs may be one of the most welcome additions, according to Michael Guffy of Shawnee Telephone Co.
Last week, Guffy continued to sort stacks of congratulatory phone messages that followed an announcement that his company will receive $7.4 million in grants and loans.
“People are very excited and anxious to hear about it,” Guffy said.
Shawnee Telephone was the lone Illinois recipient selected in the latest round of federally funded broadband projects.
Shawnee Telephone’s fiber-to-home network will improve Internet services in about nine communities in five counties. Officials estimate the project, which includes $1 million in local funding, will create 100 jobs initially.
“We’re hoping for more (jobs) after that,” Guffy added.
The area has the state’s lowest per-household income and high unemployment, a fact Guffy was surprised to learn when he moved there two years ago. “We’re really excited that this project will stimulate the economy,” he added.
Guffy said he anticipates that high-speed Internet will boost tourism when local campgrounds offer visitors broadband connections. Shawnee Telephone hopes to partner with the U.S. Forestry Service to offer broadband access in the area’s national forest, he added.
In addition to economic benefits, high-speed Internet services will expand information available to local school districts, libraries, and medical facilities. Shawnee Telephone also wants to work with Southeastern Illinois College, Guffy added.
Since the announcement, Guffy said he’s been surprised by the support his company has received from many economic sectors, including agriculture.
IFB supports expansion of broadband services in rural Illinois, and upgrading broadband services is part of the Illinois Smart Agenda developed by the Vision for Illinois Agriculture.