October 16, 2012 By Jessica Mulholland
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced Tuesday, Oct. 16, that gigabit fiber and wireless will be deployed in Chicago’s Mid-South Side thanks to the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge award, which was given to Gigabit Squared.
Illinois’ investment of $2 million will help support Gigabit Squared’s nationally renowned Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program to create jobs, improve neighborhood safety, enhance education and improve health-care services, according to a press release.
This is Gigabit Squared’s first fiber network deployment under the Gig.U project. The initiative’s first phase will bring gigabit speed fiber to more than 4,825 residents, businesses, schools and health-care institutions in the Hyde Park, Kenwood, Woodlawn and Washington Park neighborhoods over the next year. Then, based on neighborhood participation and adoption, gigabit broadband access could be available to as many as 210,000 residents and 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 Rahm Emanuel in the press release. "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."
The gigabit initiative announcement comes just three weeks after Emanuel announced a citywide Wi-Fi initiative. Emanuel’s Wi-Fi plan, called the Chicago Broadband Challenge, is to convert Chicago into one of the most interconnected cities in the country.
Chicago CTO John Tolva said wireless in public spaces is one option made possible by fiber, but the primary challenge in the city's RFI about gigabit fiber is for a municipal fiber ring.
"The University of Chicago/Gigabit Squared partnership is something that Mayor Emanuel's office has been involved with since the earliest days," Tolva said. "We are offering the same things to them that we are in our RFI: unused capacity on current city fiber, access to street rips, streamlined permitting, etc. In that way — and because the goals are nearly identical — we view the announcement this morning as the first set of stakeholders stepping up to the mayor's Broadband Challenge."
All of these initiatives, he said, are about making Chicago the digital capital of the U.S. by offering an affordable, ultra high-speed platform for businesses; increasing options for Chicago residents; and providing free service in public spaces, which has already been done in Millennium Park.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s $2 million award will be the initial investment for the project, with additional funding of $1 million from the University of Chicago, which will help bring in another $1 million from the Woodlawn community and other sources. An additional $5 million will come from Gigabit Squared’s Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program and its investors.
In response to the announcement, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski noted that in today’s fast-moving and globally competitive economy, the challenge is ensuring that the U.S. has a strategic bandwidth advantage.
“Realizing the need for speed is important for driving next-generation innovation,” he said. “Today’s partnership among the state of Illinois, the University of Chicago and Gigabit Squared will bring new levels of connectivity to Chicago communities. It’s exactly the kind of initiative we need to ensure that the U.S. can win the global bandwidth race.”
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Kunal Mehta