Illinois announces Gigabit broadband initiative for mid-south Chicago neighborhoods

Gigabit Squared to collaborate with State of Illinois, University of Chicago, and local communities to build Gigabit-speed broadband network

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has announced that Gigabit Squared is the recipient of an Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge award. Illinois’ investment of $2 million will help support Gigabit Squared’s nationally renowned Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program (GNGP) to create jobs, improve neighborhood safety, enhance education and improve health care services.  Gigabit Squared, the architects of next generation networks, will deploy gigabit fiber and wireless in Chicago’s Mid-South Side.

“Smart communities will foster the job engines of the future,” said Governor Quinn. “To win in the information economy, we need information infrastructure that is second to none. Through the Gigabit Communities Challenge, Illinois will build stronger, smarter communities with internet connections more than 100 times faster than they are today.”

The $2 million award from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will be the initial investment for the project. Additional funding includes a commitment from the University of Chicago to contribute $1 million and help bring in another $1 million from the Woodlawn community and other sources, and $5 million from Gigabit Squared’s Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program and its investors.  Gigabit Squared will collaborate with the University to initiate a process for sharing information and soliciting input on the project from members of the affected communities.

The initiative’s first phase will bring gigabit speed fiber to over 4,825 residents, businesses, schools, and healthcare institutions in the first phase will provide opportunities to innovate in the Chicago’s Mid-South neighborhoods.  This access will create educational opportunities, streamline government, and foster small business growth. As the project advances, based on neighborhood participation and adoption, gigabit broadband access will be potentially available to as many as 210,000 residents who live in over 79,000 households as well as the 10,000 commercial businesses in the area.

“This public-private investment infrastructure will promote economic development and engender a smarter, safer, and digitally empowered community surrounding the University of Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel. “I commend Gigabit Squared for its efforts on behalf of the neighborhood. This project is a great first step toward realizing the goal of the Chicago Broadband Challenge: an open, next-generation network for the entire city.”

“When we developed the Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program, it was exactly this type of neighborhood partnership we envisioned,” said Mark Ansboury, president of Gigabit Squared. “Bringing the University of Chicago, the State of Illinois, the City of Chicago and individual neighborhoods, as well as Cook County together, we’re able to do what none of us could do individually – build a platform for economic development and business creation on the Mid-South Side of Chicago.”

“Cook County is excited about the grant award for the Woodlawn Community.” Said Lydia Murray, CIO of Cook County. “Expanding broadband access to underserved County residents and institutions has been a priority for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s administration and we look forward to working with the Gigabit Squared organization in Woodlawn to connect our County Health Clinic with the fiber infrastructure being planned.”

During the next year, the Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program will bring fiber and wireless broadband capacity to the neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Kenwood, Woodlawn and Washington Park as well as serve community anchor institutions including schools, libraries and health care institutions. In addition, over the next four years South Shore, Greater Grand Crossing, Grand Boulevard, Douglas, and Oakland will be served initially by gigabit speed wireless. In addition to its initial $5 million investment, Gigabit Squared will develop additional infrastructure that provides citizens and businesses with Internet connectivity to create jobs through digital economic development, improve educational opportunities, improve health care, increase safety and implement smart energy solutions as the neighborhoods adopt the new program as their own.

Dr. Byron Brazier, Chairperson of the Network of Woodlawn, Inc. who will bring community resources to this project explains, “There is nothing more important for our neighborhood’s growth and vitality than the ability to compete and thrive in today’s global economy right here in Woodlawn. Our neighborhood business owners and entrepreneurs – as well as students and their families – are looking for chances to grow and expand their businesses and educational opportunities.  This initiative helps bring and create small businesses, opportunities and jobs to make Woodlawn a destination community of choice.”

The University of Chicago has been key to developing the vision for this project. Last year, the University joined nearly 30 other research institutions around the country in committing to help bring ultra-high-speed connectivity to their respective campuses and surrounding neighborhoods to support innovation in critical areas such health care. Among other things, this project will bring gigabit connectivity to the four South Side campuses of the University of Chicago Charter School and to several area clinics and Mid-South Side commercial corridors.

“High-speed Internet infrastructure is an important foundation for innovation, research, economic growth, and job creation,” said Robert J. Zimmer, President of the University of Chicago. “We intend our investment in the first phase of the project to serve as a catalyst for future efforts to build out the broadband network, furthering economic growth for the development of vibrant, healthy, and safe communities across the mid-South Side.”

This is the first demonstration project of Gigabit Squared’s Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program (GNGP), which will bring other projects like this to promote gigabit network innovation in six (6) selected University Communities across the country.  The $200 million broadband program was developed in partnership with The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project (Gig.U).

“This project will be an example to communities all over the world of how Universities and their local stakeholders can collaborate to drive economic opportunities by putting private investment to work alongside public capital,”  said Blair Levin, Executive Director of Gig.U.  “We’re thrilled to see our Gig.U member, University of Chicago, at the center of this innovative initiative to help Mid-South Chicago communities benefit from the advanced applications and services accelerating the meaningful use of this gigabit speed network.  Congratulations to the Governor, the University, and Gigabit Squared on the formation of this public/private partnership to support not only today’s needs, but the research and community development needs of tomorrow.”

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