State funding drives contract-rich Chicago municipal broadband project

The State of Illinois is funding the Gigabit Squared broadband project in Chicago. The contract awardee will deploy fiber and wireless infrastructure in Chicago’s Mid-South Side area.

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Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has announced an award of $2 million under the state’s Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge program to fund the city's Gigabit Squared municipal broadband project. The contract awardee, who will work in partnership with the national Gig.U broadband effort, will deploy fiber and wireless infrastructure in Chicago’s Mid-South Side under the auspices of its Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program (GNGP).

The initial phase of the network roll-out will see 4,825 residents, businesses, and anchor institutions connected with a fiber-optic network, reports's sister site, Lightwave Online. Based on neighborhood participation and adoption, the Gigabit broadband access infrastructure could subsequently be made 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 Mid-South Side area.

The $2 million, which will come from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, will provide initial funding for the project. The University of Chicago has pledged an additional $1 million and will help raise another $1 million for the Woodlawn community. Gigabit Squared and investors in the GNGP will kick in an additional $5 million.

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."

Over the next year, fiber and wireless broadband capacity will reach the neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Kenwood, Woodlawn, and Washington Park as well as serve community anchor institutions. Over the next four years South Shore, Greater Grand Crossing, Grand Boulevard, Douglas, and Oakland will be served initially by gigabit-speed wireless.

This is the first demonstration project of the GNGP, which Gigabit Squared hopes will bring similar projects in six 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).

“When we developed the Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program, it was exactly this type of neighborhood partnership we envisioned,” commented 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.”

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