Countdown Until
Illinois Connected
National Digital Inclusion Alliance
Illinois Broadband Lab

Calling all leaders, communities, organizations & businesses that want to help build our connected future.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance and University of Illinois invite you to join us.


May 8-10, 2024
Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk

Space is limited

Illinois stands to gain more than $1 billion in federal broadband funding over the next five years, on top of significant state investments. Summit participants will have the chance to collaborate with peers and learn from experts and each other about how to make sure this record investment leads to sustainable economic opportunity for all communities.

Who should attend?

  • Digital equity practitioners
  • Digital navigators
  • Internet service providers
  • Local governments
  • Researchers and students (Call for Papers!)
  • Community anchor institutions—such as libraries, schools, health organizations, and public housing
  • Organizations serving returning residents, older adults, veterans, low-income families, and more
  • Residents impacted by the digital divide, or looking to get involved!

Programming Overview:

Wednesday, May 8 (1 pm – 4:30 pm): Interactive Workshops for Digital Equity community

  • Community Digital Navigators: Training and peer exchange
  • Digital Program Managers: Digital program content and funding

Thursday, May 9 (8:30 am – 8 pm): General Programming + Evening Reception

  • Cross-Cutting Plenary Sessions
  • Breakout Sessions:
    • Digital Equity
    • Broadband Deployment
  • Evening Reception

Friday, May 10 (9 am – 12 pm): Interactive Workshops for local governments, providers and researchers

  • Broadband Deployment: Resources and opportunities for the BEAD Program
  • Research: Understanding needs and measuring impacts (Call for Papers!)

We have secured a special reduced room rate of $216/night (plus tax) for Illinois Connected Summit attendees at our conference venue, the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk. The discounted rate is available until April 10, but the room block is likely to fill up quickly, so please make your reservation soon!

Book online here or call Marriott reservations at 1 (888) 236-2427 or (312) 464-1000.

For questions about the Illinois Connected Summit, contact

National Digital Inclusion Alliance
Illinois Broadband Lab

Block Agenda

DAY 1 // Wednesday, May 8

1:00p Arrivals / Registration


Sub-Track A: Digital Equity Practitioners

BLOCK 1 // Digital Inclusion Essentials: Gain a deeper understanding of the strategies to advance digital equity in communities. The session will provide a robust foundation of the different aspects of digital inclusion and digital equity. This interactive session includes information on digital inclusion barriers, programs, coalitions, policy, and funding.

BLOCK 2 // Digital Navigator Training: Digital Navigators address the whole digital inclusion process – home connectivity, appropriate devices, and digital skills training/referral. Discover best practices, critical aptitudes, workflow methods, and outreach strategies learned from a wide community of digital navigator programs nationwide. We’ll explore ways in which the digital navigator model has been adapted for specific audiences, client success stories, and the actionable tools that can help you build or expand your own digital navigator program.

Sub-Track B: Digital Equity Program Directors / Managers

BLOCK 1 // Preparing for Digital Equity Funding and Sustainability: This session provides an overview of opportunities and practical insights on accessing funding to pursue community-driven solutions.

BLOCK 2 // Creating and Managing Digital Navigator Programs: Strategic guidance on how to set up and launch a digital navigator program. Topics will include: an overview of NDIA digital navigator model; how to integrate and manage client data and interactions into a digital navigator program; resource and funding needs; management best practices.

DAY 2 // Thursday, May 9

8:00am – 9:00am Registration

9:00am -10:00am MORNING PLENARY

Opening Welcome

Interview: Illinois’ DEA and BEAD Plan and Implementation

One of the nation’s pioneering advocates for digital equity will sit down with Illinois’ broadband chief to discuss how the state plans to leverage a generational federal investment in high-speed internet connectivity. They will cover the new opportunities the state hopes to unleash as well as what local governments, internet providers and community stakeholders that want to be part of the process should expect in the months and years ahead.

Lightning Round

This series of dynamic short 3-minute presentations will give attendees local snapshots of the excellent work being done around Illinois to increase access to broadband and increase digital literacy, and the exciting results they’re seeing.


Digital Equity Track

Building Awareness of Your Digital Equity Program

Public education, building awareness, and engagement are critical to the success of digital inclusion programs. Learn field-tested strategies to communicate and tell your stories of impact effectively. This panel will focus on telling your story, with best practices and tips to engage with your audiences to ensure that the right people know about the work you’re doing in your community.

Building Community-Based Partnerships and Coalitions

This session will also include information on building partnerships and coalitions to support your digital inclusion work. It will consist of strategies from community-based partners and digital inclusion coalitions on how to successfully build relationships with community partners to address digital inequities, and highlights NDIA’s Digital Inclusion Coalition Guidebook.

Deployment Track

Connect Illinois Broadband Grantee Showcase

Illinois was one of the first states to make a major commitment to closing the digital divide with a significant public investment to help achieve universal broadband access. We will talk to recipients of Connect Illinois grant funds about how they initiated broadband expansion efforts prior to the recent federal funding boost, and how they’ve been successful in implementing projects.

By the People, For the People: Community-Led Broadband Planning

As the release of federal broadband infrastructure funds to states approaches later this year, urgency is building for communities to develop local plans – based on their unique needs – for getting residents connected. This session will walk through the essential elements of effective community broadband planning using the experiences of several Illinois counties that have gone through the process and are on the path to implementing funded projects.

12:00pm – 1:00pm Lunch & Networking


Digital Equity Track

Practitioner Perspectives: Practical Tips to Advance Digital Equity with Covered Populations

Community organizations and anchor institutions that provide digital inclusion services must comprehensively understand community needs to provide services catered to the needs of program participants. Together, panelists will share their digital equity program efforts, core lessons, and key takeaways to inform others working with covered populations.

Falling Through the Cracks: Why Digital Equity is a “Must Have” in Marginalized Communities

This session will explore the intersection between digital inequity and racial inequity. Participants will hear from community leaders providing programs and services in their respective ethnic communities and how the digital divide poses 21st century challenges and barriers to advancement.

Deployment Track

Broadband Breakthrough: Empowering Advancements in Rural Communities

To stay competitive in today’s global economy, rural residents – including farmers and ranchers – need access to high-speed internet for everything from maximizing efficiency in the field, to learning and developing skills, to finding and communicating with customers. In this session we will look at the unique gaps and opportunities in less-populated areas and explore an innovative collaboration in Illinois called Broadband Breakthrough that is helping deploy broadband networks anchored in the needs of rural communities.

Make Every Dollar Count: Funding Local Broadband Expansion

The options for funding local broadband networks are as varied as the communities that still lack high-speed modern internet service. We will talk to experts about how to identify potential funding streams and determine the best investment structure for meeting a community’s particular needs and circumstances.

3:00pm – 5:00pm AFTERNOON PLENARY

Campuses as Connectors

Universities serve as critical regional economic drivers. In Illinois, state broadband planners are leveraging the higher education system to nurture hubs of expertise and innovation around broadband access, adoption, and utilization. We will hear from members of the state’s college and university community about how their institutions are leading digital equity efforts in their regions.

New Needs, New Opportunities: Broadband Expansion and Workforce Development

The promise of universal broadband access has major implications for the workforce. How do we ensure there are enough skilled workers to expand our infrastructure on the pace that’s needed? How do we make sure there is adequate support for new internet networks and subscribers? How will expanded broadband access and digital literacy advance broader workforce needs and goals? We will dig into these questions and the potential answers with a group that spans the demand and supply ends of the spectrum.

The Long View

The broadband funding included in the Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Law is the largest-ever single federal investment in connectivity, and is not likely to be matched for generations to come. We will explore what promises universal connectivity holds for solving a range of entrenched and costly challenges, and how we can make sure the benefits of this record investment can be felt in communities that need them most over the long-term.

6:00pm – 8:00pm EVENING RECEPTION


DAY 3 // Friday, May 10


Sub-Track A: Deployment

This workshop is designed for potential BEAD funding applicants, including local government stakeholders and broadband providers. The expert-led session will cover mapping, obligations, project area units and local land-use policy best-practices.

Sub-Track B: Research

This workshop will highlight some of the latest and most valuable research being conducted around ongoing needs in broadband access and digital inclusion programming. Through a combination of research presentations and discussions, we hope to connect motivated researchers with programs and practitioners to help identify gaps and measure impacts.

For questions about the Illinois Connected Summit, contact

National Digital Inclusion Alliance
Illinois Broadband Lab