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Governor Announces Winner of Gigabit Competition on South Side

Bruce Montgomery, chief executive of Wi-Fi Technologies and a long-time advocate for improved technology in Chicago’s mid-south neighborhoods, speaks Tuesday in Woodlawn at a press conference with Gov. Patrick Quinn (D). Quinn announced one of the winners of the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge.
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A D.C.-based technology company will bring high-speed Internet service to Chicago’s underserved communities, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) announced Tuesday at a church in Woodlawn on the city’s South Side.

The company, Gigabit Squared, was among the first winners in the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge.

The Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge is a statewide competition working to create high-speed broadband networks across Illinois. The competition, which had more than 40 applicants, helps to promote the governor’s proposal of world-class broadband infrastructure in every area of Illinois.

Gigabit Squared received $2 million in capital funding from the state.

A digital economic development company, Gigabit Squared focuses on creating ultra-high speed broadband while improving access to health care services and clean energy, and helping communities grow and expand.

The $2 million awarded will act as a seed investment for Gigabit Squared’s project and will help to improve economic development and the access of high speed broadband networks of the community surrounding the University of Chicago.

Of the $2 million, the University of Chicago has committed $1 million to support the Gigabit neighborhood pilot project. The university is also committed to helping raise another $1 million.

“Access to information is absolutely critical to economic development and job creation,” said Bob Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago. “It is critical for affecting function in education.”

During March and April 2013, the Gigabit neighborhood Gateway Program will bring its high speed broadband to Hyde Park, Woodlawn and Kenwood, which are its core neighborhoods. And later throughout the year Gigabit Squared will be expanding its broadband widths to Washington Park, South Shore, Greater Grand Crossing, Grand Boulevard, Douglas and in Oakland.

Bob Jennings, co founder of Gigabit Squared, said he didn’t know how the service will be priced yet but that the cost “will be competitive.”

Mark Ansboury,the president of Gigabit Squared, wants to “erase the digital divide” in these neighborhoods from this program and let everyone benefit from the possibilities that digital infrastructure allows. In the future, Ansboury hopes that the digital divide will become the “digital inclusion.”

In partnering with Cook County, the city of Chicago and the University of Chicago, this program will create more than 50 new jobs and bring high-speed broadband networks to over 4,285 residents, businesses, schools and healthcare institutions in its first phase alone.

“In the world of information, a fast-paced world in the 21st century, we’ve got to have ultra high speed when it comes to the internet and broadband deployment,” Quinn said. “We have to have everybody in and nobody left out.”

With the $5 million from Gigabit Squared’s Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program and its investors, Gigabit Squared will reinvest in its internet network growth to create jobs, improve health care, increase safety and create smart energy solutions as neighborhoods adopt the new program.

Michelle Phelan, Trevor Joseph, Brian Tabick and James Foster contributed reporting.

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