CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced that nine Chicago neighborhoods are the first beneficiaries of the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge, a statewide competition to establish ultra-high speed broadband networks across Illinois. The state is awarding $2 million in Illinois Jobs Now! capital funding to Gigabit Squared, which in partnership with Cook County, the city of Chicago and the University of Chicago, will deploy gigabit fiber and wireless in neighborhoods on Chicago’s mid-south side.
Announced during Governor Quinn’s 2012 State of the State Address, the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge advances the governor’s efforts to encourage world-class broadband infrastructure in every area of Illinois.
“Smart communities will foster the job engines of the future,” Governor Quinn said. “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.”
Gigabit Squared is the first in a series of award recipients that will be announced in the coming weeks. The state’s investment will help support Gigabit Squared’s Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program (GNGP) to create jobs, improve neighborhood safety, enhance education and improve health care services.
Administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the $2 million award represents a seed investment for Gigabit Squared’s pilot project. In addition, the University of Chicago is providing $1 million and committing to work with various organizations - community-based and philanthropic - to raise an additional $1 million for this effort, which leverages a $5 million private commitment from Gigabit Squared’s Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program and its investors. In its first phase, the project will bring world-class gigabit speed fiber to over 4,825 residents, businesses, schools, and healthcare institutions and will create more than 50 new jobs.
“When we developed the Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program, it was exactly this type of community 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 to the mid-south side of Chicago.”
“This public-private investment in infrastructure will promote economic development and engender a smarter, safer, and digitally empowered community surrounding the University of Chicago,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm 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.”
During the next year, the Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program will first bring fiber and wireless broadband capacity to the neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Kenwood and Woodlawn as well as serve community anchor institutions including schools, libraries and health care institutions. Over time, Washington Park, South Shore, Greater Grand Crossing, Grand Boulevard, Douglas and Oakland will be served by gigabit speed wireless. In addition to its initial $5 million investment, Gigabit Squared will reinvest in the network growth 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.
“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 – are looking for chances to grow and expand their businesses and educational opportunities,” said Dr. Byron Brazier, president of the Network of Woodlawn, Inc. who will bring community resources to the project. “This initiative helps bring and create small businesses, opportunities and jobs to make Woodlawn a destination community of choice.”
“High-speed Internet infrastructure is an important foundation for economic growth, job creation and innovation,” 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.”
Gigabit Squared is a digital economic development corporation specializing in the planning, implementation and roll-out of IT-enabled infrastructure. The company helps communities and network providers across the globe develop, capitalize, implement and leverage sustainable infrastructure investments for civic and economic transformation. Public-private partnerships (P3), collaboration and co-investment in large-scale infrastructure programs drive remarkable results and financial returns. The Gigabit Squared team has been responsible for developing and acquiring billions of dollars in infrastructure funding through government, quasi-government, private, and non-profit sources.
As part of the comprehensive, multi-year Illinois Jobs Now! economic development program, the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge sought proposals from private and public organizations to encourage promising ultra high-speed broadband deployment projects throughout Illinois. Applicants were required to provide a viable plan to connect at least 1,000 end users to an ultra high-speed broadband network. Award recipients will receive seed funding to help build or expand world-class broadband networks in Illinois.
Governor Quinn will announce a second Gigabit Communities Challenge recipient during an awards ceremony being held later today in Aurora.
A longtime advocate for improving our technology infrastructure, the governor has been a strong voice for broadband deployment in all areas of Illinois. As part of the Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program, the Broadband Deployment Fund was used in 2010 and 2011 to jumpstart more than 4,000 miles of new fiber optic cable construction and more than $300 million in private and federal investments in Illinois.
For more information on the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge, visit Gigabit.Illinois.gov.
© Illinois Science and Technology Coalition
Illustration by Dieter Braun