University of Chicago to help bring gigabit-speed broadband network to mid-South Side

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer this week announced investments in a project that will bring gigabit-speed connectivity to several neighborhoods near the University’s campus.

The project, led by Gigabit Squared, a digital economic development company, will build the infrastructure needed to support a fiber and wireless broadband network significantly faster than what is generally available today. The result will be a platform for innovation and economic development for Chicago’s mid-South Side communities.

Gigabit Squared, through its Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program, is committing $5 million to the project, while the State of Illinois is contributing $2 million through the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge Grant. The University has committed $1 million to the project and will help secure another $1 million from other sources.

“High-speed Internet infrastructure is an important foundation for innovation, research, economic growth and job creation,” said Zimmer. “We intend our investment in the first phase of this 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.”

The first phase of the project will include four neighborhoods: Hyde Park, Kenwood, Woodlawn and Washington Park. A later phase will add the South Shore, Greater Grand Crossing, Grand Boulevard, Douglas and Oakland communities. Gigabit Squared expects to build wireless and fiber broadband capacity in the first four neighborhoods within the next year.

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.

The project is a significant step in the University’s involvement with the national Gig.U initiative, a commitment by more than 30 research institutions to help bring ultra-high-speed connectivity to areas surrounding their campuses. It also is an example of the University’s ongoing efforts to find new ways of engaging with surrounding neighborhoods and the city of Chicago.

In recent years, the University has developed promising new partnerships in economic development, education, health, safety and other areas.

“To help our community partnerships reach their full potential, it is important that Chicago’s mid-South Side become a leader in technology,” said Derek Douglas, Vice President for Civic Engagement. “The more technology can link students with new sources of information, connect patients with doctors, and speed the free flow of ideas, the more promise it holds for spurring new business ventures and creating other new opportunities for the University and its neighbors.”

For more information about the project, read Gigabit Squared’s October 16, 2012, press release.